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On a lot of websites (especially blogs), we find 'share it' buttons like this --> alt text.

Personally, I never used one. If I want to share something online, I copy the link and manually share it through SNS or IM. Other people claim that they use it, though.

Overall, are 'share this' buttons really worth putting on websites? Yes, they usually consume only a small amount of screen space and bandwidth, but is it worth it? Aren't they just adding to visual noise?

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12 Answers 12

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The buttons prompt readers to share, and they make sharing much quicker. If you're already logged into Twitter, you can tweet a post from my blog with just two clicks. If the button wasn't there then you might not even think of tweeting.

Yes, the sharing buttons add a bit of visual noise. The same is true of every feature on a website. You have to decide if the tradeoff is worth it.

The only way to find out their effect is to test with and without the buttons and see how many FB/Twitter/SU/whatever links you get.

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When you downvote, please remember to leave a comment explaining why you downvoted. This will help us to improve the quality of our answers. –  Bennett McElwee May 17 '13 at 0:06

I've experimented on my blog with different varieties. I have yet to see them be used in any significant way. It's a classical 90/9/1 scenario. 1% of people share 90% of the things out there. They drive the overall usage of these kinds of widgets.

Additionally, people often overestimate the value of their own content and think that people will share their stuff all the time. Delusional, of course, yet they also are the ones who pay the bills sometimes.

I would advise to skip them unless you have serious traffic (hundreds of thousands of visitors a week).

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I have to disagree with this - the point of share buttons are to help spread the word and assist you in gaining traffic, which would be integral with smaller sites - if you're getting 100k+ visitors a week, I'd argue this is less necessary. –  keif Mar 14 '11 at 20:00

I've experimented with the AddThis style button, which offers dozens of social service share opportunities, versus narrowing it down to just the 2-3 services that seem conducive to my type of content. The shares were considerably higher - about 65% on some cases - on the larger buttons that clearly showed the social network (in this case, Twitter, Digg and Facebook) than with the ultra-condensed version.

I believe part of the reason the AddThis widget is not as successful is because you don't gain the logo recognition of the handful of extremely popular social networks. For us, using a larger button and leveraging the recognition and popularity of those big three ended up giving us more payoff than giving the user a limitless set of options that were so well hidden, it never occurred to them to use it.

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It truly depends on whether the content is "share worthy" and whether revenue is tied to page views as other folks have mentioned. Incremental numbers of inbound links in are ok, but only if you have sufficient volume.

One thing I would also offer is more along the lines of experience. These widgets typically require a call back to AddThis' or ShareThis' servers. Now, these vendors have good delivery networks--but that additional call can cause a lag. I have seen cases where the physical placement of the button caused the page to block until that control was loaded. The users' experience was like, "ShareThis? What's there there to share?"

When that delay prevents content from being served quickly, it reduces the effectiveness of the widget--and, of course, the site. If you use it, consider where it's placed in the DOM (html code). If it precedes content, you might need to get the developers to cache it so that doesn't make the load time sluggish.

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I ran a particular "social friendly" website a while ago and tested both with the "share this" plugin you talk about and with big digg and delicious buttons.

I had very poor results with the plugin but rather good ones with the big buttons.

I guess sharing is to many clicks away with that, it ain't so much of a call to action, too little, to fade, have too many options.. i don't really know why but they don't work.

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Cool. You mind sharing the link to that website? Also, what service did you use to have those big buttons? Did you do it manually? –  Allan Caeg Jan 6 '10 at 9:32
    
website was sold and now it's offline, so it doesn't really matter, for the big buttons i have hardcoded the links to digg and delicious on some free icons i found on the internet. –  Adrian Jan 7 '10 at 17:39
    
Yes, the "Share This" icon is meaningless to many web users, whereas the FaceBook, Digg, etc. icons provide a call to action for users of those services. –  Bennett McElwee Jan 15 '10 at 2:26

Honestly, when you are dealing with a website where page views are your main source of revenue, every little bit helps. Like you said, the button does not take up much space or bandwidth, so it doesn't really detract from the user experience much, if at all.

Our research on tasteofhome.com with regards to these links showed that it was about 1% of the users that ever clicked on them (so the 90/9/1 rule is probably accurate here, as mentioned above), but they did click on them. This means that they did add to traffic for the site in some way, which does add to the site's revenue. As long as you aren't manually adding them and you can find a visible place to put the button that doesn't detract from the style and overall look of the page, then I would say that you definitely go ahead and use them.

Also remember that even if very few people use the button to share your content, they ARE adding another external link to your page, which also helps with SEO.

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It depends a lot on your content. Is your content share-worthy? How did someone get to your website in the first place? I get a lot of traffic from Twitter/Facebook so it made sense for me to add a way for people to tweet out/share my posts.

I've heard this from numerous sources that having a stumbleupon widget/submitting your page to stumbleupon has dramatically increased their visits.

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Even if people use the share buttons, they may not be causing any overall increase in sharing. People who click the "Share with FaceBook" button may well have simply copy-pasted the URL into FaceBook if the button hadn't been there. Consider this when evaluating claims about the percentage of users who click the buttons. –  Bennett McElwee Jan 15 '10 at 2:25

In my experience, the share button is not used at all (or very, very little) and I think there's a good reason for that:

If normal users share something they usually do it by email, facebook and maybe twitter. The rest ist for geeks and internet pros and they don't need a share button.

So my advice would be: Decide which services are the most important and put them on your site. Then of course analyze the usage stats and remove or add buttons.

Hope that helps, Phil

PS: Why can't I comment on some answers...? Very strange.

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I prefer these to collections of many buttons, as they hide visual clutter. One button is much cleaner than 4,5,6,... buttons.

Whether you should have these buttons at all is also an interesting question. While the serious users of these services probably don't need them, it's a handy reminder which acts as a prompt.

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You mean, they sort of influence the person to share it through another way (like copying the link and sharing manually)? That's a very cool idea! Someone has to test that –  Allan Caeg Jan 7 '10 at 13:28

We were asked to put an AddThis.com share button on a site aimed at 11-12 year old kids. I didn't think they'd be used at all to be honest, but here are the stats from the last year:

  • Page impressions: 67,882
  • AddThis shares: 192
  • Clicks received from shares: 0

So it has been used, a bit, but has not brought a single visitor!

Make of that what you will!

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Definitely share buttons make sense!

I like this solution: alt text http://shareaholic.com offers sg. like this

In case of facebook now when you click Like almost the Same happens: http://soshable.com/facebook-like-butto/ - thus in case of Facebook a likebox seems enough

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Chris Coyer posted some thoughts on this: Quick Thoughts on Sharing Buttons.

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Jitendra, would you consider editing your post to contain the information from that article? Otherwise, it's probably better as a comment instead of an answer. –  3nafish Apr 29 '13 at 14:31

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