Intelligence
Social Media Integration on Higher Ed Sites

Intelligence

Social Media Integration on Higher Ed Sites

Jul 21, 2015By Greg Zguta

Social media integration is a best practice for higher education websites. So it’s no surprise that this is one of our clients’ most common feature requests in website redesign projects.

Content creators want to showcase and integrate social content within their websites, from a straightforward YouTube video embed to complex interfaces that create a wall of social content from multiple sources. These requests seem like easy wins because the content already exists, but sometimes the implementation can be a struggle. Here are three pointers to help you achieve social media integration.

1. Watch out for the visual branding guidelines.

You might not realize that visual branding guidelines exist, considering the large number of sites that violate them. Most social platforms have rules around how they allow you to use content from their sites. These rules can be buried within the terms of use and, of course, they change over time. A few important sets of rules to be aware of:

All social networks have guidelines, so give the rules a quick scan before attempting an outside-the-box implementation. It’s hard to say what the impact would be in every case of not playing by the rules, but it’s fair to say that there is a risk, and forewarned is forearmed.

2. Be aware that the rules can change.

Several years ago, the Twitter API made it easy to embed tweets in different ways using fairly simple JavaScript. However, when Twitter deprecated that version of their API, many embedded Twitter feeds on websites around the world stopped working. The solution? Use Twitter’s widget — which is much more limited in styling capabilities — or completely reimplement this bit of functionality. The dependencies you rely on for including social content on your site can change. The more heavily you rely on this content and the more complex the implementation, the greater the risk.

One way to combat changes to the way social media integrations work is to use the native options from the social sites themselves. These tend to not be the most beautiful or unique implementations, but they are functional and supported by the social sites. The most prominent of these are Twitter widgets and Facebook plugins. These tend to be safe and easy ways to get social content onto your site.

3. Explore third-party social aggregation tools.

Third-party tools designed to pull social media content from multiple accounts together for display on a website are growing rapidly. These tools use embed codes of their own to display within your website. They have various settings and options for the type of content, the amount to display, and the style of the display. Many of these third-party tools can combine feeds, so that all of your social activity can be merged into a single page or interface. Most of these also adhere to the branding guidelines for the social sites they pull content from. This type of integration can be more interactive and engaging than the basic options from Facebook and Twitter. You have lots of choices for these types of tools, but here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Tintup has a free option, but it is limited. Pricing gets fairly steep for the paid versions (though schools and nonprofits can get discounts), but its possible applications are vast.
  • Juicer also has a free version, but the paid version starts at a low cost and has nice options for typical social embed scenarios on websites.

Many similar tools exist and work well. New options seem to pop up all the time, so it’s worth searching around or checking the code on your favorite sites that do it well.

What tool have you used successfully to embed social content on your website? I’d love to hear about it — leave a comment and don’t forget to include a link to your site, so we can see it in action!

 


  • Greg Zguta Director of Client Support I've been working on education web projects since the late 90's and enjoy visiting campuses and watching how technology has transformed higher education since I got my first email account at Oberlin College in 1992. Back then, I mostly used the web to check weather radar and sports scores . . . I suppose technology hasn't transformed everything yet.