Online Marketing

Colin Griffiths Posted by Colin Griffiths on June 23, 2016

Do People Really Use Social Sharing Buttons?

Do People Really Use Social Sharing Buttons?

You see social icons on sites all over the web, but do people really use them?

In a January blog post, Copacino+Fujikado’s Mike Hayward defined the six most dangerous words in advertising. They’re six words we’ve all heard—from clients, from our team, or maybe in our own heads—and they’re six words that often shape the way we design our content marketing strategies:

 “And then they will share it.”

These words are dangerous because they assume that the shareability of a concept, a campaign, or a piece of content marketing is baked right in to the content creation process. That no matter what you make, the final step is someone sharing it on your behalf, and thus, spreading your message. Unfortunately, that's not really how consumers act—no matter how much we wish they would.

This is evident in one very popular element of web design. It’s something that almost every website has, and every client who’s asked for a website in the last five years wants. It’s also something that statistically very few users actually put to use unless they’re designed and implemented really, really well.

Social Sharing Button Statistics

Social sharing buttons are everywhere. You know, they’re the little icons for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networks. Instead of copying and pasting a link to the item, blog post, or product on the page, a viewer can simply click the button and, often, an auto-populated Tweet of Facebook status pops up.

These buttons seem like a great idea—after all, they make it easy to share your content!—however, users almost never use them. Really! A report from Moovweb in 2015 found the following, according to AdWeek:

Moovweb studied 61 million mobile sessions and discovered that 99.8 percent of mobile users never engage with social share buttons. In fact, mobile users are 11.5 times more likely to click ads than they are to click social share buttons.

Desktop users click on social sharing buttons more often, according to Moovweb (about 35% more often) but they still prefer sharing links their own way, rather than using these buttons.

What’s the deal?

Why Social Sharing Buttons Languish

The reason why many users, particularly on mobile, don’t use social sharing buttons comes down to simple distrust.

Early on, social sharing buttons were unpredictable; you might click the ‘Tweet This’ button, only to see that an automatically-generated Tweet with strange-looking HTML markup or cut off text was blasted out to all your followers.

That’s because a lot of web designers implemented the social sharing buttons, but didn’t make the actual shared content look and feel like it was being shared by a person. And remember, social media is deeply personal; when a user shares a piece of content, they’re telling their own audience something about themselves, and they want it to make them look good. Garbled text or pixelated photos don’t achieve that.

This created a level of distrust among users. Instead of assuming that the social sharing button would generate a Tweet or Facebook status that would be satisfactory, they instead took to copying and pasting links and adding their own message.

However, this also means that with the right design and thought process, content marketers can make social sharing buttons that actually work for the user.

When Social Sharing Buttons Make Sense

First, it’s important to determine whether or not your content is share-worthy or the kind of thing a user might share. If you’ve got an e-commerce store, Pinterest sharing definitely makes sense. If you’re writing blog posts that lots of people might respond to, Facebook and Twitter could be good fits.

Consider getting creative with ways that people can share socially. Two websites, Medium and The Establishment, offer good examples.

On a Medium blog post, users have the option of highlighting the text. They can then turn a highlight into a tweet. That way, users can pick the part of an article they want to tweet, and it’s automatically sent out with the username of the author of the post and Medium’s handle.

Similarly, The Establishment’s site has pre-baked pull-quotes that can be tweeted. These allow users to tweet canned amounts of the article, and again, their tweets automatically loop in the author and the publication, allowing more people to see and engage with the tweet.

For Pinterest sharing, look to sites like Refinery 29, which attach social sharing buttons to every image in every article, allowing users to decide which photo they want on their board.

And for Facebook, look to Facebook itself—their mobile sharing feature allows users to customize the links and the content, which ensures that people can post exactly what they want to, how they want to.

Simply slapping a social sharing button on your site isn’t enough to get users to spread your message—and assuming that it is could lead you to a world of hurt (or at least, disappointing ROI). Instead, focus on two things: Strong content, and buttons that actually meet customers where they live. If your content is good enough, people will likely share it—but offering customized, easy-to-use sharing buttons can help them get there quicker.

Ready to create social sharing buttons that actually work?

efelle creative is a Seattle-based web marketing firm that specializes in website design and development, website content management, search engine optimization, and other online marketing services. Since 2005, efelle creative has worked with hundreds of businesses to help them with their web development needs. Call us at 206.384.4909 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with a custom web design specialist.