Why I’m done with social media buttons

I get asked at least once a month to put sharing buttons on Post Status. Yesterday, I read Sam Solomon's reasoning about why he's done using them in his designs.

Also, the comments from Hacker News had some good insight, including a link to this in-depth piece from Josh Benton at the Nieman Lab on why they aren't as big of a deal as many thinkΒ (coincidentally, I posted my own interview with Josh yesterday – go listen!). Smashing Magazine actually increased their Facebook traffic when they removed the like button from their site.

While I do plan to include some form of social sharing on this website in an upcoming iteration, I just don't think they are that important, and my implementation will be quite subtle. Quite frankly, I think they are often just more junk on a website, and I think we should be more discerning in how we use them on our own sites and for clients.

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12 Comments

  1. Brian, good one.
    I have removed the sharing buttons a few months ago on my site. Which resulted in a cleaner UE, cleaner design and faster loading times.

    The last sentence of Sam’s post is what counts: “If people really love your content, they’ll share it.”.

  2. I think that in general, while a sharing button’s purpose is to entice people to promote a post or article, it ends up just promotion the social network in question.

    A Facebook like button only promotes Facebook. A Tweet button only promotes Twitter. And so on.

  3. Okay, I’m in the minority here, but I think there is a need for them. For most of us that use social media wisely, we also use those share buttons wisely. Maybe we think of design clutter, but also I am thinking of my readers and how to make it as easy as possible for them to share my content.

    And since I am constantkt checking out over 50 blogs a day, I’m sorry. If I find a post I want to share, please make it easy. I cannot tell you how many posts I didn’t share because I just wasn’t going to take the time to copy the title, go to Tweetdeck, come back and copy the URL, go back to Tweetdeck, and then share.

    What can I say πŸ˜‰

    1. You make a good point, Bob. And it’s precisely for folks like you that I think it’s still worth putting sharing options there. But, I do intend to make them as minimal as I can.

      Personally, I don’t hate sharing options, but I do hate those big official buttons from various services that are bloated and unsightly.

  4. For the longest time, I didn’t have sharing buttons because I always felt as though “If people really love your content, they’ll share it.” but I almost always received complaints from people who just wanted to click a button to share something.

    I share stuff the old fashioned way. In fact, what Bob describes is how I share content. I copy the URL and then paste it either into Tweetdeck or Facebook which gives me the flexibility of adding any commentary before or after the shared URL.

    I love what Senff said. They serve more as promotions for the social networks then they prove useful on websites, most of the time. Of course, if you have data showing that people use the buttons, I wouldn’t get rid of them.

  5. The only way I include them – if at all – is via “manual” implementation. That means use their “old” sharers which Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are still offering. Those are very robust and work everywhere, even perfect on mobile.

    In the end this way only an external URL is implemented on your site, with just a few parameters like post title and such appended to the URL as query args.

    I did it on my personal site in 2012 and works perfectly.

    I have total control over placement, design (even a text link would be enough!) — and absolutely NO external scripts.

    Yes, you would have no counters — but in the end, users don’t care how often something was shared. This is useless info!

    That all said, I fully agree, that most of the time these button stuff is bloatware and not needed on a good site/ blog.

    My 0.02 cent on this. Dave πŸ™‚

  6. Alright… I’m just gonna come right out and say it. This is another one of these “designer/developer made-up, non-issues”. Another example of this is lightbox popups. Designers and developers will go on and on about how terrible and offensive they are, but the fact is they work and often times they work incredibly well. Most users don’t even notice them unless they’re obscenely annoying.

    The same is true for social sharing buttons. The reality is that -most- people like social sharing buttons. It makes it easier for them to share your content and easy = good. Having the share counts is also important because it adds an aspect of social proof. People are much more likely to share a post that’s been shared 1,000 times simply because “everyone else is doing it”.

    If anyone is really convinced that social sharing buttons are pointless, then they should prove it. Implement sharing buttons WITH share counts and keep track of the number of shares across your site. If they don’t go up, then disable them and publish the data. In my experience, unless your implementation is god-awful, it’s pretty unlikely but if it did happen I’d love to see the data on it.

    At the end of the day, more shares mean more eyeballs. If you’re not blogging for eyeballs, then by all means leave them out. If you’re like most people and you actually want your site to have an audience, make some money, etc then I’d strong advise you to add sharing buttons. For the record, Google also pays attention to these social networks and the amount of times content is being shared. Over time it’s likely that the social signals will continue to play a larger role in how Google decides to rank content, so the reasons for getting shares stack up pretty high.

    By the way, I’m not advoating for sharing buttons on every single section of your site? Nope. In fact in some cases they can even hurt you: http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/removing-social-sharing-buttons-from-ecommerce-product-page-increase-conversions/

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