“I’d share this article with my friends if there were a share button on this page,” said no one ever.
Social share buttons have been a standard on the web. Tons of sites slap as many icons at the bottom of their articles and blogs as possible in an effort to get their message out to as many people as possible. The question is, do they actually work?
Where are your users consuming your content?
When social media first came onto the scene, the web was dominated by desktop screens and social sharing buttons were an integral part of a company’s social media campaign. As the web has marched forward, more and more users are consuming the majority of their digital media via a smartphone and more importantly, via apps (Comscore). This is where one of the major issues with social share buttons starts. Many apps include an in-app browser experience which give you the ability to share directly to that app from the web. At that point, there’s no need to add social share buttons, you’re just duplicating someone else’s work.
Is anyone actually using these things?
The results from a study run by Moovweb, a mobile optimization firm, give us the best look at whether or not social sharing buttons are useful. Moovweb found in over 61 million mobile sessions, 99.8% of users did not use the social share buttons to share out content. In fact, they found that users were actually 11.5 times more likely to click on an ad than they were to use a social sharing button.
They’re one more thing to slow down your site
Social media should be driving traffic to your site, not the other way around
You have a user on your site. They’re consuming your content. What do you want them to do next? I can almost guarantee no one answers this question, “I want them to go to a different platform where I have far less control over the message and have to compete with hundreds of other distractions.” Social sharing buttons drive traffic away from your site instead of the way it should work, where your social media strategy drives more traffic to your site. This also hits at links to your social accounts, even the ones that typically live in your site footer. What are they there for? If you have something to say, say it on your site and drive traffic to that message.
It has the potential to look desperate
I’ll admit that having buttons that track how much your content has been shared can add some weight to your message. If this many people found this content worth sharing, it must be good. But let’s look at the other end of that situation. It looks pretty sad when there are a ton of social share tracking buttons with a bunch of zeros next to them and that can easily help to undermine your message.
In the end, a well-crafted social media strategy and focusing on your site as the destination will get your message out. There’s no need for ugly buttons that either do nothing at all or drive users away from your site. Keep that in mind when you get the itch to include them on your site.