(For the rest of the year, we’ll be discussing more technical topics to help you work out the bugs in your blog and get it looking and working great. If you want to pay for speed and get a particularly irritating pet peeve handled then take a look our growing line-up of jumpstart services)
Social Sharing Icons are vital to increasing the reach of your message
Twitter has been the most effective social platform for attracting new readers to Pushing Social. Facebook is also darn effective even though I actively ignored it for 2 years.
But here’s the deal, I’m not a social network groupie. But that didn’t stop me from testing and effectively placing share icons on Pushing Social. I made a point to make it ridiculously easy for anyone with a social audience to quickly share relevant content.
Over the last few years, I’ve tested dozens of strategies. Most didn’t work, but I uncovered a few “best practices” that has reliably ushered quality readers to my blog. I’ve implemented these techniques with equal success on my client sites.
Here are a couple useful observations -
Haphazard social icon selection dilutes effectiveness
Displaying a social icon implies that you are active on the channel. Users will want to see you there and participating.
For example, displaying a Pinterest Icon on Pushing Social would send the wrong signal. I’m not a user of Pinterest and I’ve only visited the site a handful of times in the last year. Although I don’t mind my content being shared there, it isn’t likely that I will ever engage with a Pinterest user on the platform. So, for now, no Pinterest even though there might be oodles of potential readers on Pinterest.
I’ve seen to many bloggers turn their blogs into a social flea market with every social network getting equal visibility. In the end, this strategy sends a confusing message and distracts users from reading your content.
As a general rule I pick 3 social icons to display. My litmus test is simple, I should have spent more than 30 minutes on the platform in the last month and the platform should have sent a subscriber in the last 30 days. This quick test immediately eliminates 99% of the social noise.
Clumsy placement cripples effectiveness
Location is king when it comes to boosting Share Icon effectiveness. I’ve tested a variety of placement options and have learned that:
- Floating Left-Aligned Placement: Look great and add a little visual pop to your design but they are a pain to use with many themes. They also tend to look funky on mobile devices. I only use this placement of the WordPress theme can easily accommodate it. Performance wise, floating sidebars don’t perform as well because users tend to ignore them after seeing them one or two times.
- Under-Headline Placement: This placement performs the best in every situation. Readers expect to see share icons here and use them frequently. This placement tends is less intrusive and easier to integrate with many WordPress theme designs.
- End-of-Post: This placement kills social share performance. The only option that performs worse is not having a share icon! The rationale behind this placement is that people will click the icon after reading the post. My testing shows that most people don’t read the entire post word for word. Sharers tend to quickly scan a post to check it’s quality and relevance. They rarely scroll to the bottom of the post.
- Top-And-Bottom Placement: This looks like a great option for appeasing the end-of-post crowd but the double placement tends to slow down the page-loading speed causing other more worrisome problems. Since the search gurus agree that page loading speed is an important ranking criteria, I wouldn’t advise hurting search rankings to put a share icon in the useless bottom-of-post position.
What You Can Do
Download and install Digg Digg, Buffers share icon placement plugin. Digg Digg works well in many themes. However, you may need help to customize the plugin if you have trouble with your theme. You will also need to have basic level of comfort with CSS if you want to position the Floating Sidebar option.
Share Bar is a good alternative to Digg Digg. It’s lightweight, loads quickly, and had a decent interface for customizing the look and feel of your share icons. I hesitate to recommend it as your primary option because Share Bar doesn’t have the excellent customer support options that Buffer provides with Digg Digg.
Place Share Icons under your headline
Configure your plugin to position your icons immediately after your headline.
If you are a savvy WordPress User you can quickly do this by placing your share icon code snippets in the appropriate hook location. Studiopress and Thesis also offers easy options to quickly add your custom code to the theme’s hooks.
If this is all greek to you, then get help. Pay for speed so you can get back to the important stuff, like writing content worth sharing.
Provide a reason to follow you
Social sharing is a numbers game like almost everything in marketing. More followers = more reach. That’s why I encourage everyone to aggressively grow their Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn audiences, selecting the right platform for your message. The easiest way to grow your following is by having a prominent “Follow-Me” call to action in your sidebar.
You will need to go a step further than simply using the hipster “Connect with Me” label and throwing a row of icons up. For the best results, focus on 1–3 social platforms where you can spend time cultivating relationships and building your visibility.
Next place those social icons in your sidebar (above the fold - everything that can be seen without scrolling) with a quick sentence promoting the benefits of following you.
Something like -
“Follow Me on Twitter to get links to tools, articles, and the occasional NSFW joke.”
You Only Need To Do This Once
Take the time to clean up your social share icon placement now. The benefits are huge and the time investment is relatively low.
Also let me know if you’ve come across any other cool social icon plugins that have worked well for you.