You see sharing buttons on almost every site. But do readers use social share buttons today, or have they become blind to them?
There is a good chance that you have a set of buttons on your site.
If you do, how effective are they?
But when you visit other sites, do you use these buttons to share articles or blog posts on your social media accounts?
The logic of using social media sharing buttons
It seems like the easiest way in the world to share your content.
All you need are some buttons.
Visitors to your blog will read your new article.
If they like it, they can quickly click on a button to share it on Facebook, Twitter, or any number of other social networks.
Depending on how many sharing icons you have in your share bars, and the button size, you assume that each one will encourage visitors to share your blog post.
Almost every site you visit has social share buttons.
So naturally, you use a free WordPress plugin or similar code on your site.
You might have installed it years ago and never given it a second thought.
Every other site has them, so I have them too.
But how many people regularly click on a social button to share content?
Do readers click on social share buttons?
I asked myself this question.
I had no idea because my plugin doesn’t connect to my Google Analytics data.
Yes, I can check how many visits I get from social media networks, but not how many came from my share buttons.
So I tried a quick Twitter poll.
I didn’t get a lot of votes. But it was enough to get an idea about user experience and usage.
While I was doing my research, I came across another poll by Scott Cole.
It arrived at a similar result. You could say from these two little straw polls that around 10-20% of people use these buttons.
But what it doesn’t do is break down the difference between mobile and desktop users.
Luckily, I stumbled on some data on Marketing Insider, which breaks down usage.
Only 0.39% of mobile users and 0.60% of desktop users tap share buttons.
The article went further to explain how few people use sharing.
Across the over 61 million mobile sessions we studied, we found that only 0.2% of mobile users do any social sharing.
This is very, very low usage: Users are 11.5 times more likely to tap an advertisement than they are to tap on a social sharing button on mobile.
From the results above, you would have to conclude that although you see these buttons everywhere, very few people actually interact with and use them. On top of that, they are not beneficial to the mobile user experience.
The negative effect on your site speed
Social sharing plugins are notorious for slowing down your site loading speed.
I use an extremely lightweight plugin. But it still adds half a second to my page load time.
Scott Cole again has a great example of how bad the effect can get with some plugins.
Some social plugins’ design and development can add a considerable amount of load time and add many requests.
These requests are often data collection for ad networks or calibrating share counts.
If you have a sharing plugin, you should check its performance.
If it is a resource hog and collecting personal data, you really should find a better, safer, and faster alternative.
Do you consider privacy issues?
Here is a quote from an article by Busines2Community about privacy issues.
Even if they’re not used by a visitor, share buttons place cookies on a user’s device when they view a website.
So your share buttons are not as innocent as you think.
You really have to read that again. Even if your visitor doesn’t even look at or use your Twitter or Facebook share button, they are still being tracked.
So your free plugin is free because of ad-tracking data.
No matter the number of shares you get from it, every one of your visitors will have an unannounced tracking cookie added to their browser.
Are social share buttons effective?
A few years ago, I would have said yes, quite quickly.
But today, I am not so sure.
The most effective way to gain more traffic to your site or blog is through organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing.
Social sharing doesn’t really help much in this regard, especially when you consider the very low click percentage of mobile users.
However, if a blogger stumbles across only one of my articles on social media because of a share and then links back to it, there is some social proof value.
But on average, social traffic accounts for only around 6-8% of my traffic. Organic and direct traffic is about 85-90%.
So are my social sharing buttons useful?
I would have to say no. But like you probably, I keep them because everyone else uses them.
It’s not a great reason, but we all tend to think this way when it comes to social media platforms.
Do readers use social share buttons? From the research I have done, I came to three conclusions.
1. Only a small percentage of people use social sharing buttons.
2. Any sharing plugin will slow down your site.
3. Many social sharing plugins have security and privacy concerns.
If you are reading this article on a mobile phone, you won’t see any buttons on my site.
But if you are using a desktop, look on the left-hand side of your screen.
If you see my sharing buttons, you’ll know that I haven’t been brave enough yet to remove them.
But if you can’t see them, then you’ll know I had a change of heart and deleted my sharing plugin because of the three concerns I noted above.
If you have these buttons on your site, you might want to reconsider the benefits against the drawbacks.
But well, yes, alright. Everyone has them, so you should, too, right?
Related reading: 3 Practical Book Promotion Strategies For Your New Book