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Are 'share this' buttons really effective?

Many websites include 'sharing buttons' (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) on their websites these days. I'm wondering if anyone has pointers to statistics that show people actually use these buttons. When i Tweet a link or post something on Facebook i usually just copy the URL, but i suppose some less tech-savvy people might find these buttons useful.

I'm not that interested in opinions whether you should or shouldn't use these buttons, i'm interested in actual statistical data that shows if and how these buttons are used.

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marked as duplicate by JonW May 21 '12 at 18:27

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I think you are mistaken to not be interested in opinions - expert opinions on this are far more valuable than statistics for any given site. Here's a link to UXExchange (which should be moved over here this week) that talks about Share links: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/4727/… There are a couple of specific-case stats, but more important, good discussions on why to use them or not. –  Charles Boyung Mar 29 '11 at 13:43
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I'd agree with Charles' opinion on heuristic evaluation but also add that if you are interested in stats, as with something like the sharethis button, they include a full reporting feature, so you can get all the stats you want. Plus, implement your own Google Analytics on the buttons to further provide solid measurement. –  jameswanless Mar 29 '11 at 16:24

2 Answers 2

Statistics are going to be difficult or misleading, because the answer depends on the demographics of your visitors and how they use your site. Are looking to support a desire to use the buttons with actual data, or looking for a lack of data as reason to not spend the labor on them?

Common sense suggests that "share this" buttons are helpful for mobile visitors for whom copy and pasting, while available, is still cumbersome compared to clicking a button. These buttons may further be meaningful if you your metrics show meaningful traffic from Twitter or social networking sites, because it means people are actually sharing your content on these sites.

If your data shows your site gets (whatever to you means) decent usage by mobile users, incoming hits from social networking sites, or if your program / product manager is trying to push your site into social awareness, consider it. Otherwise don't.

We don't use them because it's not meaningful for our demos. We do have email and PDF links on content like press releases, but that's because our research has shown enough of our users like the functionality.

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I believe (and I may be wrong on this) that - for the twitter sharing option in particular - it isn't actually the number of clicks that button gets that is tracked and counted but actually the number of times that specific URL is mentionned on Twitter, regardless of how that URL was actually posted. (it could have been Cut and Pasted, manually typed in or shared via the button).

I think the 'Share on Twitter' icon on the page just watches Twitter and counts up the number of times that URL is referenced and it is this which is displayed in the Twitter Count field on the page.

(I'm afraid I have no sources on where I heard this info though so think of it as just my opinion rather than fact)

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Depends on how you are sharing a link. If you use a service like AddThis, they definitely collect how often each link is used to share the content. The links on your page go through to their server before it pops up whatever is displayed to do the sharing. –  Charles Boyung Mar 31 '11 at 14:39

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