For quite a while I’ve had the opinion that social sharing buttons on blogs and websites don’t actually achieve anything and are largely a waste of space. Personally, I very rarely click a Like button or a +1 button and never, ever use the Tweet button on any website I visit. And then I read a blog post by Adrienne Smith, who says that no matter how much she loves reading, commenting and sharing content, even if your post is fantastic she will “definitely not share your content [if] your social buttons aren’t set up properly”. It got me wondering whether I’m alone in the way that I share content?
I’m not. Two out of three people don’t use social sharing buttons. Fact.
OK, not quite fact, but when I carried out some research among my networks, 65% of people I asked said that they most commonly share blog posts and articles by copying and pasting a URL into their platform of choice, rather than use the onsite social sharing buttons.
Why Do People Prefer Copy & Paste?
The psychology of social sharing is an interesting area. And it’s possibly in this where the answer lies as to why some of us would rather go through the lengthier process of copying and pasting a URL into Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn than hit the share button. Asking around my network, there are two main reasons for this: control and trust.
Many people fear giving up control of content if they use sharing buttons. People want control over what is actually posted in terms of being able to edit and tailor the message that’s shared along with a link. Sometimes people like to be able to replace the headline entirely in favour of an extract from the article. By copying and pasting, that control is maintained, risk of mis-posting (to the wrong account, for example) is minimised and people can instantly see that something has appeared as they intended.
Other people simply don’t trust social sharing buttons. They don’t trust that a share won’t be pre-populated with ‘via’ and hashtags, which are determined by the publisher. They don’t trust that they’ll have to go through a login procedure to share. Facebook gets a particular battering due to the perceived number of different types of buttons, and people don’t like the fact that they’re not quite sure what’s going to happen when they click a Facebook button. By introducing different buttons with different functionality, Facebook effectively muddied the waters for its own users.
Do Social Sharing Buttons Have Any Value?
The fact remains, however, that even if two thirds of people don’t use them, me included, we still ensure they’re embedded within our blogs and websites. So there’s more to it and, again, this comes down to the psychology of visiting a web page and deciding whether or not to share it.
Social buttons are a very much a ‘visual prompt’ that says “hey reader, if you liked this, don’t forget to tell your friends”. There’s a strong argument to say that good content will be shared regardless of whether there are visual prompts to do so, but let’s be honest, who’s brave enough to take the risk of testing out that hypothesis?
When displayed with a counter, they also provide immediate social proof of whether the content is good enough to share. Again, personally speaking I ignore this: if I like an article I’ll share it whether it’s got two shares or 200. But there is a school of thought that says any given article will be shared more if it’s already been shared a lot when someone reads it. Social buttons ‘tell’ a reader that the content is good, and they tell the author what’s popular and what’s not.
So there you have it. Are social sharing buttons necessary? I think not, but I wouldn’t dare post without them. To me, they’re a necessary evil that add ease and proof of popularity for those who want it. But what do you think?
(Oh, and hey reader, if you liked this, don’t forget to tell your friends < Visual Prompt)
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