In the movie Office Space, Stan the manager of Chotchkie’s badgers Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) to wear more flair, cheesy aluminum buttons usually handed out by political candidates. At Chotchkie’s flair was proof of enthusiasm and team spirit.
We have a social media equivalent of flair. We call them social buttons and we enthusiastically litter our blogs with them.
As of late, I’ve been on a mission to limit the proliferation of social flair. Not because the buttons are bad but because they are used badly.
Today I’ll outline some ground rules for using social icons on your blog. My goal is to help you get MORE out of social buttons and turn them into a credibility and engagement tool for your blog.
Tall order I know but let’s dig in.
Social buttons are the welcome mats for communities where you actively participate. Placing a Twitter button on your blog tells readers that you are mixing it up with your Twitter followers. The same applies to Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Digg, Friendster, Reddit, HackerNews, Ning…Um wait. You can’t possibly participate on all of these platforms can you? So don’t put a row of icons up there. Doing so creates a false expectation.
So, Pick Three. Choose three social platforms that will receive the lionshare of your attention and engagement. These are the lucky three that you will check every day. These are the lucky three that will be the outposts for your content strategy. Just three. Everything else is a distraction.
Note: I am a social media blogger. My audience hangs out on almost every social platform. So my button tray has more than three buttons. But notice that I don’t have Pinterest button. Why? Well, although my audience is interested in Pinterest, they don’t expect to see me there.
I guess that’s a great segue to…
Pick the Right Three
Find your audience and set-up shop there. The only reason to engage on a platform is to talk with people who want to hear what you have to say. There aren’t many good reasons for a ball-bearing manufacturer to have a Facebook Like button on their blog. But there are many excellent reasons they should have a LinkedIn button. You need to make the same analysis based on your readers.
In general, businesses that sell to consumers (B2C) would most likely find their audience among 700 million Facebook users. B2C retailers, designers, artists, and photographers would bump into fans on Pinterest. Twitter is also a reasonable outpost for anyone selling professional services and advice.
Businesses that sell to businesses (B2B) can safely turn to LinkedIn to find potential readers. I would look on Google+ and Twitter as well. Google+ is gaining traction with savvy professional Google users. Twitter has always done well with the business audience. Many professionals monitor Twitter to stay updated on the latest news in their industry.
Once you’ve picked your three you’ll wonder…
Where To Put Your Three
I’ve tested the snot out of social button placement to find the best combination. There are three places I would put them.
#1: Under Your Headline:
This position is waterfront real estate on your blog. This is where readers expect to social buttons and feel comfortable interacting with them there.
#2: Floating Alongside Your Post
Mashable made the floating share button popular for good reason – it works. Installing Buffer’s Digg Digg plugin ins the easiest way to get a floating share button on your blog. The plugin also will insert buttons under your headline as well.
#3: Immediately Under Your Post
This positions catches readers after they’ve finished reading your blog post. Many of the social share button plugins (like Buffer) have an option to insert your buttons below your post.
I’ve tested all three positions at once and found that this cluttered up my design. It’s important to strike the right balance between promoting your outposts and featuring your blog content. For most, it makes sense to just place your social buttons under your headline and below your post.
What If You Have Zero Retweets, Likes, and Shares?
You may not have many retweets, likes, or +1’s if you are just getting started. No problem. Almost all the social buttons have a creative version that just features the button without a count. Others will only show a count if you have at least one action.
Promoting Your Three
First, never, never, never just put a naked social share button in your sidebar. By naked I mean, simply posting the button without a reason your reader should click it. Unless you are in the social media space, your reader may not know what to do with a Google +1 button!
That’s why I recommend that you Pick Three. This gives you room to specifically promote “why” the reader should connect with you on a specific platform. For example, let them know that Twitter is where you share resource links, Facebook is where you share behind the scenes information, and Google+ is where you do impromptu coaching.
By The Way…
Over the last 2 month’s I’ve dedicated Thursdays to talking about specific areas of your blog. We’ve talked about headlines, post leads, sidebars, and other areas. This week it’s social icons. Let me know if there is a specific blog tool, area, or feature that you want me to spend more time on. Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. There are 10 key areas of your blog. I’m going through each one. If you want me to customize my recommendations for your blog then let me know here.