Do social widgets suck?

Paul Boag

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?