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Simple steps to increase engagement on BBC News

It's all about Design & Facebook & Social Media


I’ve been working with a lot of different brands lately, developing ways in which they can increase their user-engagement and brand visibility. It amazes me that so many content-orientated brands aren’t trying harder to leverage social media. BBC News is a good example, they are perfectly positioned to gain some serious traction in social but they’re missing a trick, here’s a few things I would change…

BBC iD

This is by far the biggest and most annoying problem with the existing setup. Forcing users to register for BBC iD to leave comments creates an unnecessary barrier to entry. Moreover one of the best things to come from wide-spread social adoption is services like Facebook Connect & the ability to offer users an extremely condensed sign up process (as well as being able to eliminate large parts of your codebase).

Integration is easy and services like Techlightenment’s Social CRM will provide far more insight into demographics & user-interest than a sign-up form ever could.

Sharing’s caring

The BBC have buttons that enable sharing to both Twitter & Facebook, with many articles receiving 100′s of shares. The current ‘Post to Wall’ Facebook share works but the Like button is a brand unto itself (it’s responsible for more than 65M ‘Likes’ in the past 24 hours). Don’t try & re-invent the wheel, people are able to spot the like button almost subconsciously these days and by changing the icon you’re reducing the number of conversions.

There’s an issue with the positioning of the lower share-bar as well, often it sits far below the bottom of the article, especially those with comments enabled. In this example it sits just over 2300px away from the last word.

Condensing related content

Using 1100 pixels to push related content is really inefficient. I’m not debating the massive benefits to promoting related content, however there are lots of more efficient ways the space could be used, a tabbed area, sticky widget in the sidebar that follows the user down the page or something that pops out when the user gets to the end of the article (like on Mashable).

Integrating Facebook Comments

Facebook comments are understated genius. They take the conversation about your product out & into the wild – it’s a great way to drive engagement. Even the threaded comments from FB are displayed back on your site. The only big downside is that they don’t have (to my knowledge) any SEO benefit… It would be a really interesting A/B experiment.

In a nut shell there would be several benefits to BBC News moving BBC iD to Facebook Connect…

  • Decreased registration barrier
  • Access to social graph data
  • Increased social distribution
  • Seriously personalised experiences – I didn’t really touch on this but if you’re integrating FB connect there are lots of awesome next steps you could take!

The BBC have a large, loyal audience who are invested in the brand. One could argue that they needn’t invest the time & effort in switching as people are prepared to work around the above to share and interact with them. This is true, however news is a seriously competitive market place and if they don’t get to it soon, someone else will. It’s far better to be leading the way now than playing catch up when you’re loosing market-share.

I am not working with the BBC nor do I have any affiliation with them. This isn’t an assault on the UI/UX or social teams they have working for them (who do a brilliant job) — just to demonstrate how a few small changes could have a big impact.