Do social widgets suck?

For a long time I have had my concerns about the use of social widgets on our websites. What value do they really have? Do users actually use them, or worse still, do they use them and get distracted from our primary calls to action?

A couple of days ago I read an article that looked at this subject. I have to say I didn’t agree with a lot of it, but there were a couple of paragraphs that caught my attention.

The author wrote:

The majority appreciate that the internet has transformed from a search destination into a social environment, and are already providing site visitors with the opportunity to share their content across a variety of different outlets.

Publishers seriously need to consider what they want to get from social sharing tools

I couldn’t agree with this more. Yes, most website owners recognise the growing trend away from search towards social, as our primary means of discovering content online. However, they still do not know the best way to deal with this shift. We need to be asking questions such as, why do we cover our sites with these widgets? Do we know what effect if any they have? How can we setup these widgets so that we can track how many people have clicked on them and what they did next?

But what do you think? Do you put social widgets and buttons on your site? If so why and what benefit do you perceive?

  • I used to. No more. That should be left to the UA. It’s not future proof as it makes glaring assumptions about the services your users use and how they want to use them.

  • I don’t think they suck at all when used properly. I am far less inclined to share an article when there are no button for easy quick sharing on twitter or facebook. I’ve seen this referred to as lazy, that if I am going to share I should take the time to do it manually. Maybe it is, but I am far more likely to share if the sharing link is queued up for me and I can just tweak it.

  • I do use social media buttons on my site. The idea presented is that people want to share your content and so we should make it easy for them to blast our content all over the Internet. People who really want to share your content will do so whether there are buttons present or not. If we make sharable content, people will find a way to share it.

    One thing I your article has made me think about is whether or not I want my audience’s audience to see what I have to say. Not everyone in my audience is connected with like-minded people so what’s the use in spamming a ton of people who aren’t interested in what I have to say?

    Another thought that I’ve had is that I think these social media buttons are more like badges. They’re badges we use to show how popular we are. We’re the cool guy or gal on the block because 200 people have tweeted our blog post. It’s a form of vanity in some sense.

    Maybe I’ll remove those buttons…who knows?

  • The most value of a social widget (beyond trying to get opt-ins) is to show ‘social proof’ – others are there, they believe in what you do (or not, but even then it’s better than a ‘dead’ site). Yet most social widgets offer poor moderation controls, limited design options (so you can use tools like echo, dialogfeed, gigya, etc…) Some being cheap other expensive.

  • The one big widget type that I feel absolutely sucks is the feed loader widgets. They offer nothing really new to the conversation, since most Facebook business accounts share information from the website you’re currently on to that audience. Great. I’m already on the website, I don’t need to see the post that got me there coinciding with the actual article.

    That said, the share buttons definitely have a place. They may be “lazy,” but you know who else are lazy? Website visitors, and rightly so. Why make them work to share YOUR content. They’re doing you a solid, the least you can do is make it easy for them.

    The widget that, for me, is the biggest question mark is the Like counter widget. Oddly enough, for the same reason why I’m so for share buttons. It’s SO easy to Like something with a click of a button, I never put much value behind the numbers next to the counter. But, that could be just me.

  • Personally, I always use my Hootlet (Hootsuite bookmarklet) to share. I hardly ever touch socnet icons on sites. Of course, unlike most casual web surfers, I actually know what Hootsuite is. It all depends, really: who the users are, what kind of site you have, etc. I prefer to see just the socnet icons rather than the widgets that show followers, and the like. Kinda over that. But, at minimum, using the icons to allow people to share is probably the safe way to go.