The abundance of social media sharing buttons is becoming ridiculous. At least, that’s how @NiallHarbison feels in his article “The Ridiculous Abundance Of Social Sharing Buttons.” Whether you call them chicklets or widgets, more of them seem to be popping up above (and below, and beside) blog posts on every blog. The buttons alone are not bad – they make life easier for your readers and encourage them to share your content. But if you’re including 50 different ways to share your content, you’re simply turning off the reader.
Since you can’t include every social networking website in your sharing, what should you be including?
The first step is figuring out the most widely used sharing method. Right now, that’s undoubtedly the Facebook Like button and the Twitter tweet button. But there’s no guarantee this will be the same in 2013, or even as soon as 2012. Lots of people have already made the jump over to Google+ and, in turn, are more interested in Google’s “+1″ button.
After the “big three,” it’s time to start considering your audience. More techy crowds will appreciate a Digg button. Music-oriented news might find a home on MySpace. Also consider StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Del.icio.us. At Firebelly, we include a way to share via email, as well. There’s no set formula to determine what will and won’t be successful on a blog, so the best strategy may involve trial and error – swapping out buttons that aren’t being used. Regardless, Facebook and Twitter will almost always be the most active.
Another question involves placement. Where exactly are the best spots on the page to include the buttons, and how should they be organized?
First of all, neatness is important. As I mentioned, a messy collage of social network buttons aren’t appealing to anyone. Neatly lay out your 3-5 buttons across the top or side of the blog post, as these spots are the most common. In some situations, it’s better to have them at the bottom as an option when the reader reaches that point. Of course, don’t have them in all three spots, and don’t put them in a place where they may be accidentally clicked, as your goal isn’t to trick your reader.
Either include the most popular first, or the one you’d like to draw the most attention to. This would most likely be Facebook or Twitter.
Again, this is trial and error. Give each spot a couple weeks and determine which is the most effective.
A few more key points:
Remember that you don’t need to use the large buttons that show the number of shares all the time, especially if you have a low-traffic website and that number is usually 0 or 1.
People only share quality content. If your users don’t enjoy it, then it’s unlikely they’ll click any of your social sharing buttons.
People won’t use the buttons if they’re not prominent on your website. Some services such as ShareThis offer an option to display a single button which then expands to multiple buttons. Very rarely will a user take the extra clicks to find the social service they want.
If you’re using WordPress, there are countless plug-ins that’ll implement various sharing buttons for you.
Lastly, there’s no shame in asking people to share your stuff. Actually, if you’re enjoying this article, why haven’t you liked it on Facebook yet? A call-to-action can sometimes be key to getting activity.