With social shares on content down 50 percent since 2015, it’s feeling like a lost cause to even consider social media in your content plan.
And we’ve all heard the age-old “social sharing buttons are dead” statements.
Just like we’ve heard for SEO, content marketing, PPC, and just about every other marketing tactic that still works.
The biggest gripes that tag along with social sharing buttons are often from marketers who use them wrong.
Or on sites that don’t get enough traffic.
Most of the time, it’s the case of awful placements and poor usability.
Here is how and where to add social buttons to your site for maximum social engagement.
Where to Avoid Social Buttons on Your Site
Most marketers go wrong in two main areas with social sharing buttons:
- Putting them on the wrong pages: nobody is going to share it.
- Using poor social buttons with horrible usability: it’s too much of a hassle to use.
Where do social sharing buttons definitively not work?
On product, pricing, and features pages:
According to a study done by VWO, removing social sharing buttons on ecommerce sites product pages increased conversions by 11.9 percent.
This study has produced some controversy as to whether social sharing buttons actually work or if they negatively impact your success.
But it’s hard to tell for a few reasons:
- It was on a product page. Who is going to social share a product directly from the product page before they buy it? Probably 1 in 1,000,000.
- Low amounts of shares on a product page are similar to negative or zero reviews on Amazon. People don’t trust it. It works as “negative” social proof.
- It is distracting people from the main CTA, which is to buy the product.
If you can add user-friendly social sharing buttons to the right pages, you can bet that social sharing is going to rise.
So, where do you add them?
Add Social Sharing Buttons Within Your Content
Possibly one of the best examples of social sharing button use is from HubSpot:
When consuming content on HubSpot and highlighting specific sections, a social sharing bar pops up, displaying options for Twitter, Facebook, email, LinkedIn, Messenger, and copy and pasting.
This is stellar usability.
It allows users to not only just share the entire article but share specific sections of the content they find interesting.
Plus when you copy and paste a section from the post, here is what it looks like:
“When you segment the above results by company size, the results get even more interesting.” https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/blogging-frequency-benchmarks
It automatically places the copied content into quotation marks and cites the source with HubSpot’s link.
Boom! Now that’s proper attribution.
When you select the social buttons like Twitter or Facebook, it does the same thing, automatically importing the quoted text and citing the article link.
Want more social shares with buttons? Follow HubSpot’s lead and incorporate it into the usability of the page, rather than just having static buttons on the side-bar.
Add Social Sharing Buttons Halfway Through Content
A white paper by Chartbeat found that 55 percent of site visitors read an article for 15 seconds or less.
Getting people to click in search engine results is hard enough as is, let alone getting them to stay around for content consumption.
So you can bet that those social sharing buttons displayed at the top of your blog post aren’t doing the heavy lifting.
If people aren’t even reading for 15+ seconds, they aren’t going to share your content.
With that being said, you should add them further down the page on your content, targeting more interested readers and high intent traffic.
If people are reaching the bottom of your content consistently, they probably loved the post.
And if they loved the post, your odds of generating a social share are far higher.
Sharing buttons at the top of your content can just be a distraction from the big picture:
Getting people to actively read your content.
So, try adding social sharing buttons towards the lower half of your content.
Or even at the end with a call to action:
Switch it up and see what generates more social shares for your content.
Display Social Sharing as Social Proof When Shares Accumulate
As you begin to accumulate social shares, you can flip the script and display social buttons at the top of your content.
Low shares on content can work against you if you don’t have years of built up brand awareness.
Someone who has never heard of your brand decides to give you a shot in the SERPs against big brands.
They click on your content and see this:
Chances are, they are going to think:
That’s weird, why does this post have just a single social share? Is this content accurate? Is it bad? Should I find something else?
If you haven’t had time to generate tons of social shares yet, or a post simply didn’t get that many, avoid using static buttons at the beginning of your post.
It might negatively impact your ability to get more shares.
Conversely, if you have tons of shares, directly display them at the top of your post for massive social proof benefits:
The Best Social Sharing Button Apps and Plugins
Not all social sharing buttons and plugins are created equal.
Some are clunky, outdated, have bad usability, and simply look awful.
When it comes to sharing buttons, you want the opposite of that.
Here are some of the best on the market, both free and paid to experiment with.
1. Highlight and Share for WordPress – Free!
This plugin for WordPress works just like HubSpot’s, allowing users on your site to share your content when highlighting text.
This plugin is completely free for WordPress users and works with:
With it, you can enable themes, disable specific socials and customize the sharing options.
2. Social Warfare – Free to Paid
Social Warfare packs a bunch of different options for sharing buttons from static to fading in at specific points on your post.
It’s great for adding sharing buttons halfway through content to target interested readers.
3. Monarch – Paid
Monarch is the social sharing plugin under the ElegantThemes brand. It costs money to have access to the site and plugin, but it’s one of the best on the market.
It allows the most branding customization of any plugin out there and the most diverse animation sequences.
Want a superior plugin? You are going to have to pay a bit more.
But if customization is key for you, this is worth it.
Social sharing buttons can be highly effective when placed on the right pages at the right time.
But more often than not, most marketers just put social sharing buttons everywhere.
More buttons! You get a button, you get a button!
Sadly, this approach fails.
Want more social shares from your social buttons?
Place them within content when people highlight sections.
Add social sharing buttons halfway through content to target interested readers.
Only display social buttons at the top of posts when you have accumulated tons of shares.
Avoid cheap, clunks social buttons and opt for ones with greater usability.
Social sharing buttons are far from dead. It’s just time to start using them with intent.
- 3 Tips to Increase the Time People Spend Reading Your Content
- How to Boost Your Content Reach & Engagement
- Content Marketing KPIs: Your Guide to Picking the Right KPIs for Content
Screenshots taken by author, January 2019
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!