I read one of the most interesting articles I've read about social media in some time this morning. Ironically I found the article via Twitter and yes I am basing this post on it and yes we do have social sharing buttons on this site (you will have to read the post in full to understand the irony in that statement). Basically social media sharing buttons litter the web now. Every blog, website and large brand crush them in to every single page. A couple of years ago it was seen as cutting edge to have them but you would be considered a luddite for not displaying them now. Common wisdom says that they drive more traffic and give your readers the opportunity to share your wonderful content with the click of a button. Maybe common knowledge is wrong though...
We get about 400,000 Unique visitors to the blog here every month. The following table shows the amount of traffic that is driven to the blog via social media channels. You can see that Facebook and Twitter are clearly a substantial driver of traffic but the other channels drive pathetic amounts of traffic. The fact that we are a blog about social media with web savvy users probably means that we get an above average amount of traffic from social media as well.
Are Your Just Advertising The Social Networks?
So we have a Linkedin and a Google + button on every single individual post here on the website. We have over 3500 posts and with 400,000 visitors to the site that is a massive amount of real estate for Linkedin and Google + considering in return they send us 690 visits per month. The article I cited at the top of the blog really got me thinking...is there any point compromising the entire design of your site with buttons that are going to drive such small volume of traffic. Are people just installing these buttons because they see them on every site in the world? Are we all being as stupid as each other. Real estate on a site like ours is always at a premium as we try and fit everything in that is important but maybe we should just forget about the social sharing buttons and get back to focusing on the content and making sure it is front and center and displayed as well for the end user as possible?
Users Are Not Stupid
I personally copy and share the links the old way by pasting them to the social network that I feel is most relevant. When I do try and use social sharing buttons I often need to edit the text anyway as the links are not shortened or the message is not to my liking. As Smashing magazine said in their tweet down below removing their Facebook like button actually gave them a dramatic RISE in traffic as users were forced to copy and paste the content rather than the simple but less powerful action of clicking a like button.
If you provide excellent content, social media users will take the time to read and talk about it in their networks. That's what you really want. You don't want a cheap thumbs up, you want your readers to talk about your content with their own voice.
There Is No Silver Bullet
If I had a penny for every time I had been in a meeting or read an article with people saying "put social media sharing buttons on your site and everybody will share your content" I'd be a rich man. Our blog is read by some of the most savvy people around and we get 1000s of shares every single day and look just how little traffic some of the buttons bring us. Reading the article made me think differently about those buttons and the Google + and Linkedin ones in particular. They offer little or no value so they simply have to go. I still see a need for the Facebook and Twitter ones and the stats are there to back up the fact that they are useful. I'll leave the last word to the guys who wrote the article because I think they summed it up best.
Social media buttons are not a social media strategy, even though they're often sold that way. Excellent content, serious networking and constant human engagement is the way to build your profile. Adding those sleazy buttons won't achieve anything. Social media is not easy â€” there is no simple trick.