Oliver Reichenstein of iA recently posted a controversial linkbait blog post (okay okay – I’ll bite it) on social media buttons. Apparently he doesn’t like ’em!
I’m all for minimalism – and the removal of everything unnecessary. That’s what I’m all about when I design websites, shoot photos or evaluate design. But now that I’ve thought about this subject for a few days, I simply can’t find much wrong with having social buttons on a website. Here are my reasons why:
In defence of those pesky social buttons:
- Social media buttons act as visual cues to share your content. As anyone involved in sales or landing page design knows by heart, it’s the fact that you have to ASK people to do that particular, specific action you would like them to take. In a sales situation, at a certain point during the sales process, you ask for the sale. Sometimes in a subtle way, sometimes less subtly. Same applies here: You should suggest to your user that he/she shares your content, provided they find it useful of course.
- Social media buttons make it easier to share your content. My mom and the vast amount of non-techy people like her would never think of copy/pasting something to share it on Facebook. Why make it difficult, instead of easier to accomplish?
- Social media buttons have worked well for my web design clients. But only for those who gets a decent amount of traffic, and specifically ask their users to share the content (as explained above). They don’t ask it in a spammy way, rather in a polite and friendly tone, and try to “sell the idea” by indicating the value the content would have to the persons friends/network.
- Social media buttons are quite unobtrusive, yet easy to find. The logo and logo colors of popular social media services are easily found by a user visually scanning a page. You can always find a Facebook or Twitter logo, even in a huge haystack of visual distractions!
Against those pesky social buttons:
- Yes, they are mostly pretty ugly (if something can be pretty ugly that is…)
- A typical generic share button may seem simple and innocent, but it can add significantly to the total page load, since all those little logo-icons have to load. Solution: Select and use only the most important services. Currently that will often turn out to be Facebook, Twitter and maybe Google+ and LinkedIn. Geeks using Reddit, Digg or StumleUpon can copy/paste to share your content on those services.
- Some people think social media buttons with a low share count gives the impression of negative social proof. That your content isn’t worth sharing. I acknowledge their POV, but I personally don’t agree. I believe most people are intelligent enough to instinctively know the difference between being on a huge media website or tech portal as opposed to a regular blog or small business website. And, it’s an easy problem to solve. Just disable the share count on the buttons.
In the upcoming version of Apple’s OS X update Mountain Lion, Safari will feature built-in social sharing buttons. Going forward I think that is the prime solution that will eradicate this problem. But I’m doubtful Google will do something similar in their Chrome browser. By default that is. Only default options count here, as novice users don’t tend to install extensions.
There are two reasons I believe Google will be reluctant to implement default social media buttons in Chrome:
- They passionately want their own G+ social service to supersede Facebook and Twitter.
- Google Chrome is marketed as a lean, lightweight and fast browser (and has gained popularity due to it).
That said, I think Google will eventually have to integrate social sharing in Chrome, as it will become something users expect to be able to do, ubiquitously.
Social sharing is here to stay. And people will want the easiest way to do so. Web page or browser. Whatever works.
Or, what do YOU think? Am I nuts? Comment below!