“We view a behavior as more correct… to the degree that we see others performing it.” When we see someone pioneering ahead of us, we assume the actions they’re taking are safer or “more correct.” – “Influence”, Robert Cialdini
At this point it is common knowledge among digital marketers that social share buttons are a critical element of social proof and effective content marketing. What is often overlooked and under-appreciated however, is that all too frequently “social share buttons” get added to a development checklist with little thought to the strategy behind what can make or break the efficacy of these buttons. Whether you are planning a website redesign or simply looking to boost brand awareness and reach of your content, this article is for you. Below are just a few best practices to keep in mind.
Familiarity: always use the official logo, colors and appearance of standard social share buttons. Readers trust the familiar.
Audience: first and foremost you must consider your audience when deciding which social buttons to include on your site. If you are a high tech B2B company it might not make sense to add Pinterest or even Facebook buttons (depending on your social strategy). Instead, the focus may be on Twitter and LinkedIn. Either way, reducing the number of options will increase the likelihood that your content will be shared and aggregated across the most relevant networks as opposed to randomly dispersed. Added bonus: fewer buttons also results in a cleaner look from a design perspective.
Placement: don’t hide these buttons at the end of the article and/or below the fold. Share buttons should live next to the article title or on the side of the main content but still above the fold. Consider adding a floating social sharing bar for increased visibility and prominence.
Social Proof: people like what others like, so promote top shared content and add sharing icons that show which of your Facebook friends have also liked it (via Facepile).
Context: I see this all over the place, especially with news publications. If you post the article (fictional, for example purposes) “Crazed Psycho Burns Down Entire City”, chances are your readers do not want to “Like” the story but rather “Recommend” or “Share” the story to their friends on Facebook. Furthermore, your home page as well as the headers and footers throughout your site are for buttons that promote the entire site/brand while blog posts should have individual page sharing options located closer to the content itself.
Control How Content is Shared: how many times have you clicked the share button and you find yourself shifting through unrelated images to find the one associated with the article? Don’t do this to your audience. Exert structural control over how your content gets shared through Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol and Twitter Cards. These Meta data options allow you to optimize how your content appears in a user’s feed or timeline.
Hardcode: if possible, be sure to hardcode your social sharing buttons vs. relying on a third party plugin for easy implementation. This will be beneficial in the long run in terms of more control over functionality, improved site speed and data accuracy.
Proprietary social sharing buttons can be found here:
Ultimately, it’s not about slapping some buttons on a page and calling it a day. Take a step back and consider all the sharing nuances and keep in mind that those small steps can go a long way in terms of increasing social shares of your content. It will be well worth your time.