Sticking social buttons – Facebook, Twitter and social bookmarking icons – at the top of articles can help spread your content organically, and also help with general SEO. Too many of them and your website can start to look messier than a Yahoo toolbar from the early 2000′s.
Too many choices can also dilute the impact of the most important platforms. Here, we take a look at the most popular social buttons, explaining our decision process when selecting the relevant buttons to use on our casino portal website, roulette.co.uk.
With over 1.1 billion users and counting, Facebook is by far the most widely used social networking tool. It is also the platform that sees the highest levels of engagement by active users. While some users might have reservations about sharing gambling-related content via this platform (due to the likelihood that family members and employers might see it), the sheer weight of numbers makes the decision to include a Facebook ‘like’ button a no-brainer.
Twitter is the second most popular social platform, with over 500 million users, 200 million of which can be considered ‘active’. It’s a much more open method of communication than Facebook, as users can ‘follow’ whoever they want, rather than the close-knit, exclusive personal networks encouraged by Facebook. This makes it a very effective platform for sharing and spreading content, so we felt that including a Twitter button was a must.
Google claims that their social platform now has 343 million ‘active’ users, making it the fastest-growing social network on the web. Just how active these users actually are is questionable, as the levels of engagement among these users is a lot lower than with Facebook and Twitter. There are lots of people with Google+ accounts, as extensions of their other Google accounts (Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive etc), but not many of these visit the Google+ homepage on a regular basis to check their news feed.
On the other hand, the Google ‘+1’ button seems to be very helpful from an SEO perspective, as recent changes to Google’s search ranking algorithm prioritise social shares – particularly on their own service. Because the online casino business is still very search-oriented, we felt that the SEO advantages of a Google+ button made it worth including. However, if we were in another line of business that was predominantly driven by social marketing, we might have thought twice about using it.
This is a button that we had to give a little more thought to. Because LinkedIn is primarily a business-oriented social platform, we were unsure about how appropriate it would be, or how much visibility would actually be gained by people sharing content on it. It’s not, generally speaking, a platform that people use as a source of entertainment or links to interesting articles, certainly not in the way that Facebook and Twitter are. Most users joined the network for the purposes of job hunting, recruiting, and keeping in touch with business networks.
The most interesting statistic, from the perspective of a casino website, was that 12% of LinkedIn users seek gambling information online, as opposed to the average of 7% for other social networks. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that those people are using LinkedIn to find this information, as the vast majority of traffic for gambling-related websites still comes through search engines and banner ads. So while we decided against it on space grounds, we might well decide to include a LinkedIn button in future.
StumbleUpon / Digg / Delicious
A few years ago, it seemed as if social bookmarking services might really take off as a way for people to share and encounter new content on the internet. However, the whole concept never really took off on a large scale, as people seem more interested in what their Facebook and Twitter connections are recommending.
The use of these widgets has declined sharply over the last year, which has coincided with the rise of Google+ and Pinterest, suggesting that bloggers and webmasters are getting rid of social bookmarking buttons to make room for these.
However, with most users being reluctant to share gambling-related content via social platforms, the relative anonymity of these services can still be a highly effective driver for additional traffic to websites such as ours. For that reason, we’ve continued to use the StumbleUpon social widget, although we might review the situation in the near future if usage continues to decline.
Reddit is effectively an online magazine consisting of web-sourced content voted for by its readers. It has a relatively small (compared to Facebook) but very enthusiastic following, with its 69.9 million users reading 4.8 billion pages every month. However, from looking at the type of articles that are highly visible on Reddit, we felt that their relatively user base was unlikely to embrace casino-related content, and that the inclusion of a Reddit button would only clutter the space above or below our articles.
According to Alexa rankings, Pinterest is the 42nd busiest site in the world, and like other fast-growing social media outlets, it is being increasingly used for business and marketing purposes. However, it seems to have a very specific audience, with 82% of users being female, and their primary interests being hobbies and crafts, interior design, and fashion, which fits in well with the format of the site. For these reasons, we felt that users were unlikely to respond to or share our content via this service, so on balance we decided that a ‘Pin It’ button was not particularly appropriate to our content marketing needs.
These relatively new social buttons, which allow users to schedule shares across a range of platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, are fast growing in popularity. The beauty of these services is that they can be used to streamline social media chores such as sharing your own articles and making sure that these go out at appropriate times. Because we had already made space for four social buttons (Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon & Google+), we felt that adding these buttons might make our website look too cluttered, but it’s definitely one we’ll be keeping an eye on to see if user uptake increases.
Which Buttons are Right for You?
Ultimately, choosing which social buttons to use will always be a balancing act between the aesthetics of your website or blog and the desire to reach out to as many people as possible.
We felt that four social buttons, plus an email button, was a good balance for our site, but your site may have different requirements. Much depends on how your site looks. If you’re going for a minimalist thing, then you probably only want to use two or three at the most, whereas if it’s quite a busy layout you could probably get away with more.
Another major consideration is the suitability of certain buttons for the type of content that you are producing. For example, if you were selling vintage movie posters online, you would almost certainly want to include a Pinterest button as that platform is very sympathetic to that type of visual-heavy content. Similarly, if you were writing a satirical blog, then you might get significant traffic from a Reddit button.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that web trends can change almost overnight. In order to maximize the reach of your content, you need to stay up-to-date with these changes, and incorporate them into your social strategy as you see fit. This means adopting new social buttons when they start to make sense for your website, and discarding old ones when they cease to justify their existence.
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