Sharing is caring. And on your website, caring about what your users want usually means incorporating social sharing functionality.
What is social share?
Social share buttons act as a shortcut for users to share content from your site via Facebook and Twitter — even if your brand isn’t active on social networks. Social share buttons are useful on all sorts of content — web pages, blog posts, videos, articles, e-newsletters, and more. How many buttons to include and for which sites will depend on the content and audience. Twitter and Facebook are a typical starting point, but for some brands Yelp, LinkedIn, or Google+ may be more successful.
How it works
You have probably seen social share buttons before — they’re the “Like” or “Tweet” buttons on blogs and websites. Many also display a tally of how popular the content is with other users. Here is an example of social share buttons on a blog:
When you click a social share button, it opens a pop up window over the page you’re viewing, where you can type a comment to accompany your post. (Since most people never log out of Facebook or Twitter, the session is still open and authentication isn’t required.) Here are examples of Twitter and Facebook share windows in action:
Once the post is complete, the popup window closes and the user can continue browsing the page he or she was on. The post is automatically added to the social network. Here’s how the shared post appears in Facebook:
My brand isn’t using social, so why should I have social share buttons?
Social share buttons can be a great marketing tool, but more than anything they’re a service to your users. They make it easier for your users to communicate with their friends, and get the social benefits of sharing great content. For example: Daniel is redoing his kitchen. While researching ways to make it more energy efficient, he comes across a page of no-to-low cost energy improvements on his local utility site. He knows several friends and coworkers would be interested in the tips too, so he posts them to Facebook. Two of his hiking buddies “Like” the post, and his grandma leaves a comment of thanks— she’d been looking for ways to reduce down her heating bill this winter. Daniel gets a little ego boost seeing the positive feedback from his family and friends.
Can’t users just post to networks manually?
It’s true that anyone can post a link to your content on his or her social network, but that doesn’t mean they will. Just like in an ecommerce checkout process, it’s important to make each step as simple as possible. social share buttons provide a shortcut so users can share content in just a few clicks, without leaving the page they’re viewing. For example: While holiday shopping for her nephew in the iTunes Store, Jane runs across a song her neighbor Suzy and she were trying to remember the name of during a neighborhood association meeting last week. She starts to log in to Facebook to send her the link, but remembers her long to-do list and decides she better stay focused. Since Suzy is an acquaintance and not a close friend, she doesn't have an email or cell phone number. Jane makes a mental note to mention it in a month at the next neighborhood meeting.
Won’t social share buttons make it easy for people to write bad things about my brand?
The truth is, people can already write whatever they want about your brand, good or bad. (Though, many studies of social network activity have shown positive commentary far outweighs negative.)
Think of social share buttons like calling customer service. You’d probably wait on hold a lot longer to make a complaint than to give a positive review. Likewise, jilted customers are more willing to jump through extra hoops to leave feedback than happy customers. Social share buttons level the playing field — not to mention it demonstrates an interest in your customers’ lives. For example: After enrolling in electronic statements from his credit union, Bill notices a prompt to share his action on Facebook or Twitter. With just two clicks, he tweets “Goodbye junk mail! Just signed up for paperless statements — doing my part to save the trees. http://bit.ly/rw6oyN”. A business contact who works at PECI re-tweets Bill’s post to his own network. Bill’s adult daughter sees the post too and tweets back to him, “Proud of my dad, the treehugger!” Bill feels good about what was otherwise a fairly mundane action.
Ready to implement?
Facebook has a whole host of plugins to make your site more social and Twitter has a fair share of share buttons too, but not all of them are applicable to every site. Maybe LinkedIn is a better fit for your brand — for B2B, it usually is. Look at your site analytics. Think about your users and how they'd want to share information. Get creative. Look for opportunities to engage your users. If you aren't sure where to start, ask for help.