Social Sharing Buttons: Yes or No?

The current issue of .net Magazine has a roundtable discussion of social sharing buttons — those little icons you can easily push to share a story or blog post with your peeps and tweeps. On the whole, the experts in the conversation were against them. People will share anyway, they say, and those things can mess up your design and slow your page speed.

I disagree. In fact, I disagreed on Facebook, because I firmly believe in making things easy whenever possible, especially if it’s stuff you want people to do, like contact you, buy your goods, or share your content with their friends.

Since I was rolling my eyes (virtually) in social media, my sister (a Principal Lecturer in IT at Otago Polytechnic and the author of The Incredible Rainbow Spitting Chicken) weighed in with her view. “With SS buttons,” she said, “people have to make so little effort to share that their threshold drops very low and people are swamped with mediocre quality shared material. Hence they quit valuing ‘having been shared’ so much and this damages the quality shares, sort of the way grade inflation is seen to reduce the prestige of a college degree.”

From one college teacher to another, she definitely has a point. I would never look at Digg or StumbleUpon for useful information, because being Dugg has become so common and meaningless that Digg is (IMHO) now completely worthless from the point of view of content curation. As a result, traffic from such places tends to show very low conversion rates, and in fact to be fairly worthless from a business standpoint.

From the point of view of business websites, though, a share can be very valuable. When your Facebook friends share their enthusiasm for a new restaurant, your LinkedIn contacts share an exciting new resource, or the thought leaders you follow at Twitter share an article or blog post that they found valuable, you pay attention. Research shows that you pay far more attention to these shares than you do to ads, and the cost for your company is likely to be far lower.

So we want people to share. When we want people to do something, do we make it challenging, to ensure that they will give their actions due consideration and only do it if they are truly convinced that their efforts will make the world a better place?

Heck, no. Philosophically, I favor the highest possible levels of usability, and I spend plenty of time with people (both clients and students) who would not find it easy to share without those buttons. From a marketing standpoint, I don’t want to do anything that would make my clients’ visitors hesitate to share their stuff.

Because of this, we usually add sharing buttons to blogs. I’m now going to share with you some nice WordPress plugins which I believe will give you the buttons you want without any speed issues — or without any that matter. After all, a blank page would load fastest, but it wouldn’t do you any good, would it?

If you find this information useful, I’d be pleased if you decided to share this post. I think you’ll find the buttons on this page helpful in making it really easy for you to do that.

Slick Social Share Buttons

For Uncle Sam’s, we used Slick Social Share Buttons, a versatile plugin that lets you be as simple or as fancy as you like. In this case, we chose a minimalist approach in the upper left corner of the blog post ages, but there are plenty of other options. We like that it includes G+ and Pinterest as well as the older platforms.Simple menus let you choose when and where to show the buttons, which ones to show, and how they should look. You can also customize the look.

Sociable

Sociable is the most popular plugin of this type, which often means the one with the least problems. Here it is in its basic form. There are horizontal and vertical options with various sizes of buttons and various color schemes.

TF Social Share

TF Social Share gives you a nice, eye-catching box. You can control the color and placement, make it float, and use shortcode to place it on individual posts. You can disable it for individual posts as well. We have not been successful in getting rid of the counts at FreshPlans, though that is one of the options. This is one of the most versatile of the social sharing plugins.

PinIt and PlusOne

Pinterest and G+ both have freestanding button plugins that can easily be placed before or after posts or, as you see at the website for More of the King, at the bottom of the page.

This makes sense if, as in this case, you have reason to believe that one of these two platforms is your best bet, or if you have a favorite social sharing plugin (like Sociable) which doesn’t offer G+ and Pinterest.

Add This

Add This is an ordinary string of icons, but it offers analytics when you register for a free Add This account. I like the style of their icons, and the + button gives lots more places to share, if your visitors are savvy enough to hover over it.


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