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August 23, 2013

A Bunch of Social Media Buttons Doesn’t Always Mean You’re More Social

Including social media buttons on your website and at the top of your articles is clearly a wise tactic. It can help your SEO and spread your content organically through shares which, in turn, increases your visibility and serves as free advertising.

Since sharing buttons offer so many exciting possibilities, it’s easy to think that including as many as possible will provide you with the most success, as well as skyrocket your social presence.

However, there are quite a few reasons why too many social media buttons can actually harm your site’s performance, credibility and social presence.

Too Many Buttons Can Slow Your Site

We should all be concerned with our site’s page load speed, because it will impact our audience’s experience and our site’s search engine optimization.

Nobody wants a slow site, because people will generally become impatient and leave the page. This means the fastest sites probably make the most money, have the best rankings and sustain the happiest pool of users.

If you want to make your users happy, you need a fast site. Social media sharing buttons use JavaScript to move back and forth between the social network and your site. If you have a bunch of social buttons, there will be more script the pages have to load.

If your site is slow and turning users away, your goal of having a social presence is undermined. Choose the buttons you use carefully, so you don’t accidentally slow down your site and cause frustration for users.

A Large Selection Could Decrease Shares

If you think about the way the human mind works, most people are overwhelmed when they have a lot of choices and have to make a decision. This is the same for the amount of buttons on your site!

While a large selection of social buttons might peak users’ initial interest, it could actually deter them from making a decision. A smaller selection of buttons might make them more likely to make a fast decision and share your page on a social network.

Giving users more choices isn’t always the best way to generate more social proof!

You Might Make Yourself Look Unpopular

For most everything in life, whether it’s a clothing trend, a product, a restaurant or a website, people want to know that others enjoy it too. No matter how great your website is, if you have social buttons with zero shares, your content is going to look pretty lame.

The point of including social media buttons on your site is so users can view your social proof; if they see a page or a piece of content with a lot of shares, meaning they can sense its popularity, they’ll be more interested in reading it or sharing it themselves.

So if you include a bunch of social media buttons that keep a tally of your shares, a button with a low number could be a major eyesore. It’s pretty much shouting to users that nobody likes your stuff, and that proclamation has enough social influence to sway your users’ decision on whether to share it themselves.

If you can find the buttons a lot of your users interact with, those are the ones that will probably provide you with the most benefits.

How Do You Decide Which Button to Remove or Add? 

If you’ve come to the conclusion that you should adjust the social media buttons on your site, it can be difficult to decide which ones are most effective. You can use analytic tools to consider which sites people are coming from the most. You can also look at which buttons are already producing the most shares.

But you should also consider specific aspects of each social site when deciding to include their buttons:

  • Facebook: Facebook has about a billion users, which makes it the most popular social network. There are a lot of active users who engage and share content regularly, so including a Facebook “like” button is probably a necessity for most sites.
  • Twitter: Twitter is another widely-used social network, and sharing content is almost easer using the Twitter platform. Users can follow anyone they want, unlike Facebook, so content can easily go viral.
  • Google+: Google+ is one of the fastest-growing social networks, but the amount of users who actually engage the way Facebook and Twitter users do still needs determined.  However, since Gmail, YouTube and Google Drive are such popular tools, many people are extending their accounts to Google+.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn has a specific audience that’s unlike most of the other social networks. Since it’s a business-oriented network, you should think about how much viability your content would receive when shared on it. The type of audience that visits your site determines whether they would share to the LinkedIn platform. Are they career-minded professionals? Then a LinkedIn button’s a winner.
  • Pinterest: While Pinterest is growing fast and is commonly used for business and marketing purposes, they still have a very specific audience of affluent women. Depending on your services or products, you should be able to determine whether Pinterest fits into your content marketing goals.

There’s not a clear answer to which social media buttons you should use, because it’s different for every site out there. There’s a lot of research out there, based on demographics and site traffic, so if you take some time to consider your options, you can come to a decision that fits your company’s needs!

The simple truth is that you shouldn’t cram as many buttons as you can onto your site; if you’re considerate and careful about the buttons you chose, you’ll see more long-term social benefits.

Adrienne Erin is a social media marketing writer sick of seeing blogs crammed with flashy social sharing icons. Enough is enough already! If I really want to share your post about Empire CAT heavy equipment to StumbleUpon, I will seek it out on my own.