The truth about the social sharing buttons (and the best wordpress plugins)
There are dozens of social sharing plugins for the WordPress. So, it is very difficult to choose one over another … until today.
After hours of research and testing, I can tell you that only one plugin is the best: and discover which!
Social networks have taken an important place in our lives. We first began to create a network of friends, to tell our lives, to publish photos of our vacation … And then things evolved.
We started to sharing too much.
If you are writing for a blog site, you want your readers to share your content. They help you to “amplify you readers” to reach people who do not know you yet.
So, we bloggers quickly add social sharing extension/buttons in our website without too much thinking. But do you ever wonder, if your social sharing buttons even work? Do people even click on it? If they do, which one is better for the engagement of your website. Which social sharing button improve your user experiences?
We will try to answer those question for you in this article.
Before we get to that, I must admit that I have made amazing discoveries preparing this article.
So I thought I would compare twenty social sharing extensions and recommend at least three.
Through this article, I’ll introduce you to:
- Why we share content;
- Then the study that messed my beliefs: no one clicks on the sharing buttons;
- We will then see the 3 “pitfalls” to avoid when we want to help our audience to share;
- And finally, best social sharing extensions that I recommend .
First, I want to clarify something: we are talking about social sharing buttons and not the subscription button. Both of them are quite different things:
- On one hand, we want to amplify the reach of our writings;
- On the other, we hope that those who come to our site follow us on social networks.
Although we will just tell you about social sharing buttons in this article, some plugins offer both functions simultaneously.
Why do we share?
In a study conducted by the New York Times Customer Insight Group, we learned that sharing has existed throughout the history.
In other words, social networks have invented nothing; they have only “deport” certain conversations that were around the coffee machine or by email, in an online discussion platform.
But since we share more content from more sources with more people, more frequently and more quickly; the stakes are very high.
According to the New York Times study, here are the motivations that impel us to share:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others;
- To define ourselves to others;
- To grow and nourish our relationships;
- To get the word out about cause or brands.
But we also learned that there are six types of people who share content: altruistic, careerists, the hipsters, boomerangs, connectors and selective.
This means that depending on your industry and your audience, do not count on the same motivations to for people sharing your content.
If you are in a “B2B” sector (business to business), do not try to make humorous content at any price, try to reinvent the wheel.
Your audience (very professional) usually sharing informative and serious content, mainly on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter.
They are not going to break their image, just because you have decided that the humorous content will be your new editorial strategy.
If you want more information on this matter, I highly recommend you to read the New Your Times study report.
If you can understand what motivates your audience to share your content, so you can write according to their expectations.
Nobody clicks on your buttons (almost)
So there I was stuck when I read the study Moovweb, conducted in May 2015. I had doubts about the usefulness of social extensions, and they were largely confirmed that.
It seems that the share buttons that can be seen swarming the web are ultimately useless! And this statement is even truer on the mobile devices.
When you think about it, it’s pretty logical. Take a moment and think about how you share new contents.
Here is how I share:
- If I’m on the computer, there is a good chance that I use the Buffer extension to share my new things;
- If it is for a few people, I will copy and paste the link and send it by private message (including email);
- And if I’m on a mobile device, I will use my browser sharing option to go directly to the right application.
On smartphones, we use the applications to access and share content. If a Facebook window opens in your mobile browser, there are chances that it is not even connected.
And this is normal; people usually use the application!
So a share button that opens a Facebook tab in your mobile browser will not allow you to share quickly as we have to login first.
So actually, thinking well, I never use myself social share buttons. And now with more certainty than I can say 99%: of you do not use them either.
I never use social share buttons.
And neither are you. Share that on Twitter
So now the question is if people don’t click on the social sharing buttons, is it worth to put on the website ?? Well yes!
But not for the reasons you might imagine.
The social proof
Let’s say you were looking for have dinner in a restaurant, and you found two of them. One of them is empty, and another is almost full. Which one would you go?
We might instinctively avoid the empty one and go to the other restaurant.
After all, if there are no customers, there must be a good reason. Maybe the food is not good? The service must be deplorable.
So we will set our sights on a restaurant where there were already many satisfied clients.
This is an example of social proof like sheep; we are guided to the same places and the same experiences as most other people.
It is the same with social sharing buttons: their real value actually lies in their meters.
The goal is to show your readers that others have already shared this article. This will increase their interest in to continue reading, and they might even share it themselves.
This social proof is very important. But it also means that it must show early in the page for the maximum impact.
So you must see the counters first before you even start reading! So sharing buttons at the bottom of your article have very little effect of encouraging your visitors to read your entire article.
To go even further, it is not the number of shares by the social network that is important: it is the total number.
The combine shares of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others will have much more impact than their individual numbers. That is, if you see “100 shares,” it will have more strength than if you had 44, 32, 18 and 6.
But I am not saying that the individual meters are useless, no. They help reinforce the visitor to choice one social network over another(although it mainly depends on their personal perception.)
If your regular readers share your content on Twitter primarily, the associated counter will be higher. This will create a “snowball” effect that will encourage even more shares on the network.
Here is what might have been going on the head of the user at that time, “Many people have shared the same thing on Twitter, so this might be useful. So I should share it as well”.
The counters are therefore the most important part share buttons. That means that it is the flagship criterion for choosing the extension that will be on your site.
After all, maybe your visitors will never use your website share buttons. And it does not matter. Because they will see the most important part: the social proof. And they will treat your content differently.
Perhaps you’ve noticed: there is a problem with the some social networks sharing counter. Twitter recently decided to remove its social counters.
How to collect Twitter on WordPress
In November 2015, Twitter announced to end his counters for technical reasons. Overnight, a massive amount of social proof has disappeared.
We always say that you should never depend on a single program. Although there is still Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks, it would be pretty cool to have the Twitter social counter back, right?
Fortunately, soon after that, a new service have emerged to recover your Twitter counters with virtually no loss. It is called NewShareCounts.
It is compatible with most of the Social sharing WordPress plugin (including those I recommend you at the end of the article) and it is really easy to use:
- First, log in to newsharecounts.com using your Twitter account,
- Then add your website so that they can audit that,
- Then you use compatible plugins (or you add a snippet of code on your site) to retrieve the counters.
Now, it is possible to have all the active social counters on your site. The trick is choosing the right plugin and connect it to the NewShareCounts.
We just saw what is the main purpose of social sharing buttons: it is their counter. It is now time to move to good practices for the best use!
3 Pitfalls of Social Sharing buttons
We see too often that people use social sharing buttons everywhere on the website. They put it on the top, bottom, left and right…
And in the end, they are so many distracting elements that keep your visitor from doing the very thing they came to do. Read your content.
So use them wisely.
You will see the following thing in the next chapters:
- What is the best location for the sharing buttons,
- The number of social networks, you should show,
- And how to not slow down the loading time of our websites in the process.
Where to place social sharing buttons?
There are multiple locations to put your social counters. Some extensions will even propose 13 different location(yes SumoMe, I mean you!).
But you shouldn’t put it everywhere. As I said, this distracts your readers. The goal should be keeping it simple but effective.
Avoid the Christmas tree effect if you want a professional website.
So where should we put them? Well, we have already established that social proof must be at the top of the website, to encourage readers to stay on our site.
So there are two locations that can have maximum impact:
- In the upper part of your article, before the visitor starts reading;
- And on the left side, so that the counters are always visible and move down with the scrolling (use “fixed” or “floating” property to do that).
It is also useful to put the buttons at the end of your articles. Since your reader will read all of your content, it will motivate them to share.
Now we know where to put our social counters. But how many do you need to support? This is the subject of the next section.
How many social buttons do we need?
Some plugins offer up to 200 different buttons (these are mainly foreign social networks and “bookmarking” services). Which is huge.
You can display all of them which is not recommended. Show important ones first and then put the rest of them behind “More Networks” button. So that your users can see the full list if necessary.
But the question is how much do we really need to show at first? How much do our visitors really need?
To answer this, let me present the paradox of choice. It is a concept that has been introduced by Barry Schwartz, a professor of social psychology. Its flagship concept is:
More choices lead to fewer actions.
Indeed, to many choices will confuse us rather than help us make a decision. It becomes so difficult to decide which one is better.
Sheena S. Iyengar, another social psychology expert, had demonstrated this concept through an experience.
She had installed a free tasting stand in a supermarket. During the first phase, there were only six different types of jams. And in the second phase 24.
She and her team then measured the rate of purchase. In the case where there were 24 varieties, it was 3%. And when there were only 6, it rose to 30%. Which is ten times more!
The conclusion is that we should offer the least possible choice if we want to help people make a decision.
In our case, that means we must put the lowest number of buttons to encourage sharing.
So which social networks should I show?
I can’t give you the exact list of buttons that you should display on your website. Because it depends on your industry and habits of your audience.
For example in our website, Facebook is the most used social network. Followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.
You can do a little research in BuzzSumo to determine which social networking sites are most important in your industry.
Use only four or five social sharing buttons according to your research data. The Main thing is to use the social networks that your audiences are most interested in.
Now there is the question of which kinds of social networks buttons you should use for Facebook and Google Plus? Like or Share.
Like or Share?
On Facebook and Google+ has two different types of interaction:
- The “small” interactions (Like and +1);
- And sharing of content.
We might be tempted to exclusively show one that increases our counter fast. But that is not always a good choice.
“Like” and “+1” might not amplify the distribution of your content. There is almost no involvement on the part of visitors: so this might not help you to reach new audiences.
Besides if you want to things you have liked on Facebook, you have to go in “Personal History” (available at the top right drop-down list). Same thing is applied for the Google Plus +!.
Since these small interactions are ultimately invisible to the people who follow you, this will not bring traffic. Remember, we want to encourage readers to share your contents with those social sharing counters.
So we want to start a virtuous circle in which the shares will bringing new visitors and in turn who will also recommend your content. Otherwise, you might have high social counters, but this is not going to bring new web traffic. So put your social sharing buttons first.
How not to slow down the loading time
If you compare several social sharing extensions, you know there are two types of buttons:
- The “official button” which is designed by Facebook, Twitter and others;
- And there are others designed by the plugins.
There is no need to go around the bush. Official buttons or not when people see a dark blue rectangle with an “F,” they understand that it is Facebook. So for the visitor, those are the same thing.
I am telling you this because in reality it is better to avoid the official buttons. Because they need to call on remote resources from the various social networks servers.
And this might affect your website loading time. Sometimes you lose more than a second with these external requests. All for nothing?
What social sharing plugin you should use?
I have studied 24 different social sharing plugins before selecting one which meets the following criteria:
- We need all the necessary social counter, including Twitter, so that we can see the total number of shares (social proof),
- The buttons should be beautiful and attractive, and it must make you want to click,
- The extension must be fast and optimized (load time),
- That plugin should be easy to use,
- You can manually insert the social buttons in the pages,
- And there must be a regular update of the plugin.
So those are characteristic of good social sharing plugins.
If you want a beautiful, powerful and easy to learn social sharing plugin, our recommendation is Social Warfare. This is the only plugin that meets all the characteristic of a good social sharing extension.
This plugin is beautifully designed and maintained by the professional team to ensure high quality. Dustin W.Stout co-founded this plugin who is an expert in social media and web design. Read his story about how he increased his Pinterest traffic by 1937% using this plugin.
Although this plugin is not free, they guarantee 60 days money back if you are not entirely satisfied.
Their price depends on the number of websites; you want to install the extension on. It comes with One-year customer support and updates.
Here is their pricing model:
- Lieutenant Package, for one site at $24/year;
- Captain Package, for five websites, $110/year;
- and Colonel Package for ten websites, $200/year.
Here is the plugins main functionality regardless of the package:
- It’s beautiful: Choose from 5000 different design combinations.
- It’s fast: This social sharing plugins won’t slow down your website speed.
- It’s simple: This plugin is really easy to use, and anyone can learn it quickly.
- It’s evolutionary: Developers can easily add or change features through existing hooks.
You can also add custom images similar to the Yoast SEO.
You can also recover lost social counters after a permalinks change or when switching to HTTPS.
Indeed, if the URL of an article or page changes, meters are typically reset. Thanks to Social Warfare cache system this is no longer a problem. Just specify it the old permalink structure or protocol and it will recover it within 24 hours.
In short, if the social sharing is important for your traffic, you can invest in this social sharing plugin with your eyes closed. It will worth your money.
If you buy this social plugin using our link, we get a little commission. It does not cost you more, and it rewards our research!
We have research 24 social sharing extensions, and Social Warfare is really ahead them. All of those lacks one or two most important features. We have sorted them according to their quality:
- Jetpack does not show total number of shares;
- AddToAny has Twitter button but not Google+;
- Juiz Social Post Sharer does not have Twitter counters;
- Monarch of ElegantThemes has Twitter counter, but they only use the number of clicks on the button;
- Easy Social Share Buttons (free) is not regularly updated;
- Easy Social Share Buttons (premium) does not have Twitter counters; they use the number of clicks on the button rather than the real number of shares;
- Filament (formerly Flare) does not have Twitter counters;
- Digg Digg is not updated for over two years now;
- Social crowing also last updated a year ago;
- Floating Social Bar has not been updated for ages;
- ShareThis don’t have a good rating;
- Slick Social Share Buttons is no longer maintained;
- Ultimate Social Deux does not have Twitter counters;
- Cresta Share Social It has limited number of social sharing buttons;
- AddThis cheat by using the number of button clicks and not shares;
- MashShare does not have individual meters and has really limited functionality;
- WPSocialite has not been updated for more than 2 years;
- Sassy Social Share was my first selection, but it allows to cheat on the counters. You can auto-assign huge numbers. So I can not condone this practice.
Other Social sharing plugins no one wants to click on:
- AccessPress Social Share is neither beautiful nor useful. And their premium plugin version is outdated.
- Simple Share Buttons is not as “simple” as its name suggests. No plugin support from the author in last three months and their user interface is also complicated.
Here are three social sharing plugins with a lot of function but you have to pay for advance features, and it’s hard to handle :
- GetSocial is a fine example of modular approach where you have to pay to add functionality. And you will get lost;
- Shareaholic allows you to do many things including the ability to monetize by showing links. It also really slows down your website speed;
- SumoMe wants to do everything: both pop-ups, like contact forms, as social shares. And it becomes a real gas plant.
Extensions can obviously evolve over time. If ever you find any items that have changed since the publication of the article, let me know by comment!
We have seen that the sharing buttons were more strategic than it seems. Thus, only the developers who really understand their stake can provide the right solutions.
Although there are so many social sharing plugins, Social Warfare really understands our needs. This is a really long article, but I hope this will help you to choose the right social sharing extension.
P.S: Ironically we are currently using simple social sharing plugins for some technical issues with our website.