In the current internet ecosystem, social sharing buttons are considered one of the best ways to let people share your content organically without making them feel forced. All you have to do is create great content, and the audience will do the rest. But, add too many of the sharing buttons, and your site starts looking overzealous, crowded, and a bit dated; smaller social media sites are constantly rising to popularity and falling into obscurity, so what is popular this second might look old in a month.
Too many choices also water down the effect of sharing to the most important platforms. How many people are going to see your site if you share it to Myspace? (Can you share to the “new” Myspace? If so, is Justin Timberlake the only person who will see it?) It is important to choose your social media buttons individually and to keep them updated to reflect the latest favorites.
Samuel Miranda from Search Engine Journal recently talked about the most commonly seen sharing buttons and whether they should be used on your site. While he frames the choices around whether they would be appropriate for the casino portal he runs, the actual advice is largely solid.
Facebook is by far the biggest social media site, and currently the only one to have a movie devoted to it. The 1.1 billion users are also the most engaged and active users. Facebook should be a no-brainer for anyone running a site, and it is easy to find a “like” button for Facebook that has been styled to match your site’s aesthetic.
While Twitter doesn’t have nearly as many active users as Facebook, it is still the second most popular social platform with 200 million active users. It is also more open and caters to direct interaction between brands and the public. The ability to follow anyone rather than Facebook’s model which limits you to people you know, also means that a single share by an influential person can have an extraordinarily wide impact. While it can’t compete in user numbers, the open interaction across the site makes a Tweet button nearly as important as a Facebook button.
This is where the decisions have to start being made. Google+ supposedly has 343 million “active” users, but the majority are most likely engaging through their other Gmail accounts (Gmail, YouTube) more than their actual G+ homepage. Few seem to actually use Google+ like a normal social media site. But, Google obviously favors their social site and the ‘+1’ button appears to have some great SEO advantages because of it, making Google+ shares fairly important for sites that rely on search for much of their traffic.
LinkedIn has been described as the Facebook for business. People don’t share entertainment or funny links, nor do they tend to promote brands through their opinions. The site is mostly used for job hunting, recruiting, and staying connected to business associates, so it doesn’t make sense for most informal or content-driven sites to pay much attention to the platform.
Reddit and Pinterest are both vastly popular niche content sharing sites. They both have their differences in function. Reddit links lead to images, outside websites, and “self-posts’ that are user-generated text while Pinterest focuses on large images, tutorials, and occasionally links to blogs. But, both are similar in that the focus is sharing content, but can only be relevant to niche groups. For example, Miranda’s gambling site example wouldn’t benefit much from the demographics that make up either site, but tech and game related content can be extremely popular on Reddit, while home decoration, style tips, and recipes tend to be the norm on Pinterest.
Buffer / AddThis/ShareThis
While you’ve probably seen buttons for all the sites above, chances are you may not have noticed the new buttons popping up for social media sharing services that schedule your shares across multiple platforms with a single click. They streamline the actual effort of users to engage their friends, followers, and social communities efficiently and at the appropriate times. They also ease the load of content marketers who have been manually tweeting throughout the day (hint). But, these buttons aren’t relevant for many sites. Most average social media users tend to only share one thing on a platform at a time. They will post one thing to Facebook, then Tweet something else entirely, assuming most of their friends follow them on both services. These multi-share tools may eventually rise to prominance, but they need more time before you start implementing their buttons on your site.
Conclusion – When it comes down to it, choosing the social media sharing buttons on your site really depends on your demographic and how people find and use your site. Keeping yourself limited to a select number of buttons keeps people sharing your content on the platforms where it will actually be seen, and keeps your page looking clean.