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I try not to make this a rant but I’ve seen an unfortunate trend lately of more and more blog posts that don’t have share buttons.
Of course, as you can see on this blog I have share buttons at the bottom of each post. In reality I probably should have them at the top as well but the theory goes that people will share content after they consume it. So for now that’s where they are. I might change that design in the future.
In reality, I usually recommend to have share buttons on the top and the bottom of posts. That’s especially important as posts are getting longer and longer, which is also true on here to a degree.
Then within posts I do recommend having tweetable quotes like this:
That’s easy enough to do with code or specific l WordPress plug-ins if you use WordPress.
But lately in 2017 I’ve seen more and more blogs that don’t have the buttons. The reasons range from:
- People just use their phone share buttons.
- Sharing has gone down over time.
- There actually are share buttons but they’re hidden. You didn’t look hard enough, Christoph.
And while the first reasons might be true, why make it so hard for those of us who actually want to share your content.
This blog currently has this function at the bottom of articles. There are more advanced share plug-ins that you can download and even pay for. I just use the free Jetpack plug-in:
Jeff Bullas, one of the top social media influencers in Australia, actually keeps the share button right below every blog post. So sharing his posts is made super easy by him.
I’ve met Jeff at a conference in Mumbai a couple years ago and Jeff doesn’t do things that don’t work. So if I’m wondering about your buttons and Jeff has share buttons front and center for his audience I’m likely on the right track that they still matter.
But still, don’t overthink share counts
Goal: Our goal is to increase shares of our social media and blog posts.
It’s not an uncommon goal in social media marketing and actually a smart one. Our content – and with that our stories – start spreading when others start sharing them to their own networks.
And it used to be simple – kind of – to measure this.
CMO: “How often was this shared?”
Data person: “Checking … 200 times.”
Of course that 200 times is the answer for how many times somebody clicked the share button. But there also are many other ways people share content now, including:
- Via direct message
- Via What’s App
- Via email
- Verbally – while sitting next to each other (think two people reading the newspaper years ago)
- In the comments
The last one seems to be a continuously increasing trend on Facebook. That looks like this:
- Facebook post goes live
- People like and officially share
- Some people leave comments that look like this: “John (tagged), check out this article.”
So buddy John sees the post now because he’s tagged in the comments. It’s not a share to an entire network of the person tagging, but a one-on-one share. If John really cares about the topic it might be a high-value share even. But the comment usually also actually shares the post and comment to the poster’s network. When John replies that comment might also act as a share.
But tagging somebody in a comment doesn’t count as a share. Neither does leaving a comment that basically shares the message.
So should we stop tracking shares if it’s so hard and complicated? Nope, but be nimble enough with tracking to understand evolving user behavior. And network behavior.
If the early success of the project depends on an increase in shares (which I wouldn’t recommend as a top-level goal anyway) make sure all shares are accounted for. That can be hard and maybe even impossible.
I would recommend this: Set high-level goals and then look at other indicators for growth. Those could include:
- Growth in readership
- Growth in engagement
- Growth in referral traffic-which means the number of people actually clicking on the shared content.
The different ways to engage with content changes. Facebook adds new buttons. Twitter won’t track link shares for your blog. Etc. etc.
Measure what can be measured and keep moving forward. Especially as many digital marketers depend more and more on third-party networks, it’s important to remember that the network rules and also user behavior change.
Our options are:
- Keep measurements high-level enough that we can keep up
- Always keep an eye on changes
- Adjust strategies and measurements
When Facebook rolled out those reaction buttons in addition to the like button I did even tell clients to not set specific goals for each. Just count it all as engagement. Most people still only use the like button anyway. And some stories are more prone for the sad button than the love button.
Measuring is fine and necessary. But measure what matters. And adjust goals when user behavior changes.
So are share button still needed?
As your digital marketing strategist I really don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t use them on our site. Sometimes people run into political or technological issues. For the most part the buttons value outweighs anything else. Of course, we want to make it easy for people to share our content.
If the reason is technology my recommendation would be to find a different platform that makes share buttons easier to implement. Of course also make sure that they pre-populate more than just the URL.
For example, if I click the tweet button on a blog post on here, here’s how a pre-written tweet looks:
Literally, all the reader has to do is click the tweet button and then click tweet once it’s been moved over to Twitter.
Even if I’m wrong that share buttons are becoming less and less important it’s such an easy feature to have with articles that I would find it hard to believe but there’s no value at all to have them.