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As of July, Facebook has over 750 million active users worldwide. Twitter, the rapidly growing micro-blogging platform, boasts an impressive 300 million registered accounts. Over 100 million people were using LinkedIn by the time the popular social media network for professionals went public in May of this year. That’s hundreds of millions of potential customers, all within an arm’s reach.

And yet, a recently released study of the top 10,000 largest websites by BrightEdge, an enterprise SEO platform provider, shows that more than half of the analyzed websites did not have even a basic link to Twitter or Facebook on their homepage. That’s just a link, folks; we’re not talking about those fancy social widgets that let site visitors automatically “Like” or “Follow” a website without ever leaving the page. Integration statistics for such widgets are even more staggering: less than 11 percent include the Facebook Like button, 4.5 percent have the Google +1 button, and only 1.3 percent have the instant Twitter Follow button integrated.

Operating one of the 10,000 largest websites online and not including a social media widget on the homepage is equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. Not including a link to Facebook and/or Twitter is just plain embarrassing. Search engines are slowly but very surely beginning to integrate “social proof” data into their ranking algorithms, which means that in a few year’s time, whether your website appears at the top of search engine results pages (SERP’s) may have as much to do with how many people recommend your brand on Facebook as with whether your meta title tag is properly optimized. These days, Internet is all about the social; time to get with it!

Even if your website does not generate millions of dollars in annual revenue, however, a basic social media widget integration strategy is a must. It takes only a few minutes to generate embeddable plugins for all of the major social media platforms, and, in most circumstances, only a minimal knowledge of HTML is required for the actual implementation. Of course, if you are not feeling up for the challenge, you can always ask your web developer for assistance or (warning: cheap plug imminent) hire Webhead to perform the installation for you.

Each widget is linked to your individual company profile on the relevant social network, so your integration choices are dictated by the networks you’re currently using to connect with your customers. Here are some specific recommendations to get you started:

Facebook – At the very least, include a Like button, which allows site visitors signed into Facebook to “Like” your website without ever leaving the homepage. Another popular option is the Facebook Like Box. In addition to a pre-integrated Like button, the widget also includes a list of your current fans and shows your latest posts. Click here to generate the HTML code necessary for implementing the Like button and here for the Like Box widget.

Twitter – Unless you are asking users to share specific content on your homepage (e.g. latest blog post), go with the Twitter Instant Follow button. The Follow button is virtually identical to the Facebook Like button; site visitors can start following you on Twitter directly from your homepage.

Google – You can think of the Google +1 button as Google’s challenge to the Facebook Like button. Users signed into their Google accounts can +1 websites, ads, movie reviews, recipes, products, and other online content. When the user’s Google contacts perform a search, they may see when the user “+1ed” specific content. Think of it as a personalized recommendation system, very similar to the “# of your friends like this” messages that you see all over Facebook.

LinkedIn – As far as we can tell, there are no automatic LinkedIn “Connect” widgets available. There are, however, several other plugins available. Implementation process is similar to the widgets referenced above.

YouTube – YouTube released a widget a few years ago that allows your site visitors to subscribe to your YouTube channel with a single click. Click here for more information and for installation instructions.

It should go without saying that if you intend to have people Like your Facebook page, Follow you on Twitter, etc. make sure that you are actually using these networks. Nothing is more of a turn off than a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in months.

Have you installed social media plugins on your homepage yet? Has it helped with your client and customer engagement? Discuss in the comments below.