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I'm working on an online magazine, and we are considering which pages in the sitemap should have social media sharing icons.

We have looked at four examples of related precedent sites throughout this design process:

GOOD and McKinsey Quarterly provide social media sharing icons only on article pages. Wired and The Huffington Post place social media sharing icons on the homepage as well that allow users to share or "like" the entire site.

The main goals behind this consideration are encouraging existing readers to engage with the content and also attracting new readers, but we also don't want to add clutter to the homepage if it is not useful. Unfortunately, we will most likely not have a chance to do multivariate testing - this is more of a "one and done" scenario.

What are the recommendations here?

Update: A couple of conflicting opinions have been given, but does anyone have data or other references to support or challenge the value of using 'share this' features on a site's homepage?

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Interesting question. I would love to see data from Wired and Huffington on what percentage of their social sharing is from links on their home page v. other content. –  JohnGB Oct 21 '11 at 15:24
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You should note Good actually has social media icons to let you follow them from their homepage too, an option I've seen on many sites. Sharing the home page does'nt make as much sense as sharing an article, but offering an instant option to follow a site is great. –  Ben Brocka Oct 22 '11 at 18:40
    
I would also like to see more references given here rather than just opinions. –  Rahul Oct 24 '11 at 21:01

5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I agree,

Visitors will only want to share some content that they find in some way valuable (even if it is only raising a laugh with some friends), not a home page which is, after all, just a portal page generally. Putting social media sharing links on the home page looks a bit desperate.

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There's no hard-and-fast rule here. It depends on your expectation that the site as a whole will be sharable, rather than any content contained within. In my experience, sharing links on homepages are actually used and often more than on any other individual piece of content; regardless of apparent suitability.

Personally, I would opt to avoid them entirely. Without A-B testing it's hard to prove the utility of social sharing features. They are visual clutter, increase load time, often cause delays, rely on a surprisingly large amount of requests, etc, etc.

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I would put social media sharing icons for the whole magazine on the homepage, for example, for users to like Good Magazine on Facebook.

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Thanks. The question has gotten misinterpreted in earlier answers and become a bit muddled. The question is whether to place "share this" icons on the homepage that would allow users to "share" or "like" the entire site. Your second paragraph answers that. –  Mike Eng Oct 24 '11 at 20:06
    
I voted this answer down because it does not contribute any expert insight, but just offers an unexplained opinion. –  Rahul Oct 24 '11 at 21:02
    
Sorry Rahul, I'm new to Stack Exchange! In the future, should I cite "expert insight" from other sites in my post, or what do you recommend? –  Maia Bittner Oct 26 '11 at 2:23

If you are providing a link to share an article, this should be on the article page - and the hope is that users will share numerous articles as they read interesting ones. The aim of the link is to get an article shared and draw more people to the site through the good articles.

If you are providing a link to the site - to subscribe to a feed from the site as a whole - this should be on the homepage. The hope here is that people will subscribe to the site feed and keep reading the stories.

Sometimes it is reasonable to have both, but they should each be in their right place. A hopepage link to share an article is wrong. An article link to subscribe is wrong.

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Your points clearly make sense, but they're a bit off from the question. The question is whether to place "share this" icons on the homepage that would allow users to "share" or "like" the entire site. Subscribing to a feed is a different animal. –  Mike Eng Oct 24 '11 at 20:11
    
I was trying to explain what I expect from icons in certain places. –  Schroedingers Cat Oct 24 '11 at 20:28

As much as I agree with the fact that people would not like/share an article before reading it, I think that social media links are used, in some instances, as "social proof" baits. For example, Read Write Web puts social media links really everywhere: homepage, summary of every article, top and bottom of the article. Why? The links in the article are clearly to incentivize sharing, but I believe the ones in the homepage are there just for the counter. People see that an article has been shared on twitter 120K times, and they click on it, because it's "popular". The need for social proof is a very powerful bias of human behavior, it's a shortcut our mind uses to filter information, and this little social media trick works well for web magazines with a lot of content and lot of views.

As per the clutter problem, I don't think social media links are a problem by themselves, but they can aggravate any mess already there.

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