Get ready for a battle far more important than the browser wars of the late 90’s. The issue at hand is just a few pixels wide and often an afterthought for developers and designers. Over the next few months Facebook, Google, Twitter and others will be fighting for just a few pixels of screen space on your content.
A good application of a share button(s) can drive traffic to your content, create new engagements and fans, and move your content from obscurity to the center of conversations. These buttons help readers post your content on Facebook or Twitter, follow you on Twitter, Like you on Facebook, highlight your content on ReddIt and Digg, improve your Google rankings and dozens of other actions.
Thoughtful use of these buttons can increase your engagement and views exponentially.
Services like AddThis have been around for years supporting a number of different social media platforms, but the prominence of Facebook and Twitter has more sites using their branded buttons over a catch-all service like AddThis, despite the built in analytics AddThis and ShareThis provide. Now add Google’s new +1 button which will probably be viewed as a must-have by SEO experts and content strategists.
So how many buttons are too much? I usually recommend at least four buttons. Share on Twitter and Share on Facebook at the content level, and then Like on Facebook and Follow on Twitter at the page level. But I’ll have a hard time ignoring Google +1, and for many people email is still an important way to share with friends.
UX experts have a real challenge on their hands. How do you incorporate all these buttons? Which buttons do you focus on, which services do you ignore. AddThis and ShareThis make it easy for developers, but is offering up all options get you the best results or should you steer your user to just a few choices? I’d argue offering just a few choices and focusing on communities appropriate for your audience is the better strategy.
These buttons have major significance to the social media platforms. Every click is a new page view, new content and better search results. If Google’s +1 button becomes the defacto standard, it will improve their search results, help grow their social media services and help retain market share from Bing. If Facebook wins over Twitter, they’ll see oincreased page views, more engagements, and better content relevance for ad matching.
This is such an important battleground, I expect these social media companies to start providing incentives for highly trafficked websites to use their buttons. For now, I’ll be testing different combination of tools, but I’d like to hear what you’ve decided to include on your content.
For more on this topic check out Tac Anderson’s round-up of button news and posts.