WordPress is one of the most powerful and versatile content management services for a blog or website. With the large number of users, plugins, themes, and simple customization options, WordPress is especially valuable for effective social media marketing and for integrating all of your social media profiles into your website and/or blog.

While you can find quite a few options to customize your website for your particular needs with WordPress, especially the social networking features of your website, there are a few things you need to know about themes and social media related plugins that will make your website a powerful marketing tool. Here are a few things you need to know in order to get started with WordPress themes and plugins in order to integrate your social media tools with your website.

Learn How to Navigate WordPress

From your WordPress dashboard, you’ll be able to access all of the major customization sections of your website. The left column lists everything you need from your pages, to your posts, to your comment settings.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll be looking at the basic ways you can customize a WordPress site through themes and plugins in order to optimize social media. You can find all of these features under the “Appearance” category in the left column of your dashboard. Themes and plugins work together to both improve the user experience and to make your life easier as a website administrator.

Learn About WordPress Themes

One of the main benefits of using WordPress is the simplicity it offers for the initial design of your website. Professional website designers create free themes as a way of showcasing their work. You can simply visit the WordPress theme page through your website’s control panel in order to install a new theme. The process of adding a theme is as simple as a click.

Many high quality themes for WordPress are available at the main WordPress site, but you can find some excellent free or premium options at some of the leading design blogs, since they often create lists of the best WordPress Themes each year. Smashing Magazine has some especially useful lists. Some themes come with social networking buttons integrated into their design so that they are visible to visitors and make it easy to connect with your social networking presence, and premium themes such as the Standard Theme and Genesis Framework offer SEO optimization along with their social network integration options.

Customizing Themes
There are two primary ways to modify themes for better social sharing. If you have a great theme that provides exactly what you need, you will most likely only need to change the sidebar where you share personal information (such as your social media links), popular posts, subscription information, or archives. However, if you want to install custom forms or social media boxes in your theme, WordPress makes that easy to access.

For most simple changes to your site’s sidebar, you only need to access the “widgets” for your sidebar. Widgets are little boxes in your site’s dashboard that enable you to click and drag content around on your site’s sidebar. Some widgets can be added by installing plugins, such as the popular posts plugin that makes it possible to add a widget with a list of your most visited posts.

Other widgets are blank text boxes that you can use to write in your own code. These boxes are especially useful for writing up a brief bio about yourself or your business and including social media icons, especially for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also paste in code in order to add a custom box, such as the code for a box that advertises your Facebook company page.

For slightly more advanced users, you can also choose to edit the code of your theme. You’ll find this option under “Appearance” on your dashboard’s left sidebar. There will be a list of theme files that you can edit. The two most common files you’ll want to edit will be the header and main index template. If you’re going to edit your theme online, it’s a good idea to paste a copy of the code into an offline text editor just in case something goes wrong.

Plugins for WordPress

Plugins increase the functionality of WordPress by adding useful features to your site with a single click. Much like themes, you can install new plugins by clicking on “Plugins” option on the left side of your dashboard.

Plugins for Social Sharing

One of the most important plugins for WordPress is DiggDigg. While there are plenty of great social plugins for WordPress, DiggDigg is tough to beat because it offers a wide variety of placement options for your social media buttons and supports 24 different social button options.

The most important Digg Digg buttons include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

For instance, Digg Digg allows you to place your social networking buttons at the top, bottom, or side of your blog posts. You also have static, floating, and custom placement options so that your content never suffers due to floating social sharing buttons that may block your text. Digg Digg also offers a variety of button options that include simple icons or counters that show how many times a post has been shared on each respective social network.

Since you now know how to modify a WordPress Theme, Digg Digg also provides the code for each social media button so that you can paste the code anywhere in your theme. If you want to place ads at the bottom of your posts and therefore you want to place your social sharing buttons in a position that is different from Digg Digg’s options for the plugin, you can paste the code right into the single post code page.

Some other great social plugins recommended by Smashing Magazine include ShareThis and Sociable. ShareThis simplifies the button creation process and provides a clean, easy-to-use interface, though it does have less options than DiggDigg. Sociable is extremely popular because it provides a lot of buttons in a small space and provides a wide variety of button options and sizes.

MailChimp Plugin for WordPress
E-newsletters are an important way to directly market to your customers since they can opt in and you can directly communicate with them in their inboxes. In addition, an e-newsletter can be easily integrated with your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that your readers can share your promotions and articles with their social networks.

One of the easiest to use tools for e-newsletters is MailChimp. The MailChimp plugin for WordPress makes it easy to add a newsletter sign up form to your website and then integrate your campaigns with your website and social networks.

If you use a more high-powered e-newsletter tool such as AWeber, you can also integrate this service into your WordPress blog with the AWeber Integration plugin.

Integrate Facebook with Your Blog Comments
You can extend the conversation at your blog into Facebook by adding the Facebook Comments plugin for WordPress. This plugin changes your comment forms into Facebook comment boxes that will integrate the discussion at your website with each visitor’s Facebook page. Brands that want to engage customers on Facebook are the most likely candidates for this plugin. Individual blog owners may prefer to use the Disqus Comment system, since anyone can register without a Facebook account.

You can find plenty of other plugins that will help you customize your website, but what you choose will largely depend on what your website needs. WordPress makes it easy to add social media elements to your site, to customize your design, and to easily manage the administrative details.

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