If there’s one thing I hear most often about social media, it’s that it can get overwhelming fast. (Here are a few tips if this is you.) Whether it’s a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or a Ning site, there are many, many ways to connect with friends, colleagues and prospects, and there are even more tools that try to help you get the most out of all of those sites. Through an ongoing series of posts, I want to go through some of these tools and highlight the ways I think you can use them specifically to help your business.

logo-finalI’m going to cheat a bit on this first one, because I’ve selected an app that I had a small hand in creating, called TurnSocial. TurnSocial is a social layer that you can add to any website — in fact, you can see it in action at the bottom of this page.

To understand the tool, I think it’s important to know what problem we’re trying to solve. We saw that lots of people and businesses were creating profiles and connecting with people on multiple social networks. These sites make great ‘outposts’ where brands can connect with their audiences. But once you get a lot of these outposts going, it can be a major task just to let people know where and how they can connect with you. So we saw sites like Friendfeed, Chi.mp and a number of others, that helped us aggregate this content on their sites. One more site, one more profile to manage. Ugh, right?

But let’s say you’re doing a nice job of driving traffic to your website. Maybe it’s your blog, maybe it’s PPC ads, maybe it was that great deal in your last e-newsletter. How do you let people know about all that time you’ve spent making connections and building relationships across all of those social media sites? You could use an online profile widget like Retaggr, or you could add rows and rows of social media icons in the sidebar. How many times have you seen this before?

social media icons

Except every one of those icons takes the visitor away from your site. It takes a lot to keep someone engaged on your website … you shouldn’t lose them just because they want to click on some icon they’ve never seen before! Twitter badges and a Facebook fan box provide more information, but each only pulls content from one site, and it’s not long before you have a sidebar full of widgets that may or may not be relevant to your audience.

THIS is why we created TurnSocial — it’s intended to keep your socially engaged visitors on your site. You’re already creating content on your website, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Flickr, on YouTube, in lots of places across the web. You don’t need another site to manage. You need a better way to show a more complete snapshot of your online presence to your reader. Provide context. Show some personality.

TurnSocial brings all that social content back to your site. And if you’re in real estate or if you’re interested in highlighting local content on your site, we threw in some bonus features for you. Add your location, and TurnSocial can pull local content from Yelp, WalkScore and RentWiki, as well as posts from local bloggers on Outside.in. There’s are a bunch of other cool features for brand marketers that we hope to announce soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, play around with the bar on this page and let me know what you think.

You can sign up for your free TurnSocial bar here. Would you use this on your site? What other apps would you want to see included in the bar? What are some other ways you are featuring your social content on your website? What other social media tools would you like to learn more about?