Recently we had an interesting suggestion sent to us. A visitor to the website for Puerto Rico Report, which we built and manage, suggested that we should move the Twitter icon to the left of the Facebook icon in the share buttons below the articles.
“I would put Twitter sharing to the left of Facebook sharing at the bottom of each article,” he suggested, “given (as I understand the digital demographics) the popularity of Twitter in the U.S. among urban speakers of Spanish, who I expect will be the first-order readers/visitors who will push your issues.”
There are two interesting premises here. First, there is the assumption that Twitter is more popular than Facebook among Hispanic users. The Pew Research Center’s study on Hispanic use of social media is our go-to source for this data, and they report that ethnic data is not available for Facebook. In the absence of other reliable sources, let’s go with this assumption and suppose that our visitor is correct.
Now we come to the second assumption: that people will tend to share more if their favorite option for sharing is further to the left. I must confess that this had never occurred to me before. We use plugins for this purpose, and I’ve never changed the share button order.
I had a look through the posts and found that Facebook, the first option, was in fact more popular for sharing than Twitter. That is, more people were clicking on the Facebook button than on the Twitter button. I also checked with Social Crawlytics to see where Puerto Rico Report was most often shared (including people who didn’t click the buttons) — and found that Facebook just slightly outpaces Twitter for Puerto Rico Report: 47% to 45%, with a few percentage points left for Google+.
And yet Haden Interactive, which also has the Facebook icon to the left of Twitter and which presumably has no special connection with Latino readers, is shared far more often on Twitter than on Facebook — 44% to 26%. In fact, the placement of the icons has no correlation with the platform that is used most for sharing, wherever we look.
But the question here is not whether people will usually share with the left-most button. That one is easily answered. The question is, will people share more often if their preferred social platform comes up first? It seemed worth a bit of an experiment.
As I was moving in to customize the order, I discovered that with AddThis, the plugin we used for Puerto Rico Report, and indeed for most of our websites, the order of the share buttons is personalized for users “by popularity and language.”
In other words, visitors may see different things. I have to admit to some skepticism on this point. But it does seem to put the kibosh on any experimentation. So let me ask you: do you think that the order of share buttons or social icons affects the likelihood that visitors will share?