Overlooked and Underappreciated: the Social Share Button Strategy

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social media“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.


Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman works for the Jive Software, the pioneer and leading provider of social business solutions. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine marketing and specializes in SEO and paid search for the B2B sector. Freeman has been responsible for the development and execution of countless search and social marketing campaigns over her years in the search marketing industry.
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  • http://www.spinxwebdesign.com/ Alan Smith

    Thanks for this article but now pinterest has launched it’s own business account option, so should i use pinterest sharing button at my home page ?

    • http://www.rankwatch.com Sahil

      Great Post! Social sharing buttons when properly placed and rightly used will help a business get social media visibility, improvement in quality, relevant and engaging search traffic and mainly helps in creating brand awareness etc. Controlling what people share on Facebook and Twitter is very important, for example on twitter you can help people pick the right content you want them people to share to get more visibility (don’t forget to add your Twitter handle and a relevant hashtag).

  • Manuel

    My experience with social sharing is that people tend to ignore those buttons. Only a very low percentage of visitors take the time to share the content in their social profiles.

    It also depends on the niche, but I think that social sharing is a numbers game. To succeed in spreading the word of your online business through social networks you must have a lot of traffic.

  • http://www.foxcrawl.com Foxcrawl

    social share buttons are ok but it is important to check first for the appropriate design, and second to look at the loading speed variation.

  • Peter Garety

    Great article!

    Social buttons is not just buttons – it is social proof & emotional SEO, and if you use correct buttons it can turn your website to a real viral powerhouse + you will be unstoppable for niche level authority in Google.

    Even more…

    It is not something you install from FREE WP plugin directory. It is a strategy that you must think through right before you start your website or when you start to get a little bit of action on it.

    – Peter