Do you see those share buttons above this post? Oliver Reichenstein hates them and wants them to disappear. He posted a well thought out rant earlier this week on the topic of share buttons.
Even though I disagree with Oliver, his post is an interesting read. He argues that they add little value, are a nuisance, and in fact these buttons are often mistaken for a social media strategy rather than simply a tool. I thought it would be interesting to discuss my experiences with AddThis, the sharing plugin I'm currently using.
Oliver's other point against sharing buttons was that the add to the page load time and can affect scrolling. (They also take up screen real estate, but there's nothing I can do about that.) I haven't seen this issue with the AddThis plugin.
The nice thing about the AddThis plugin is that it is the last thing on the page to load. You can start reading the post while the buttons are still being added, and I like that. The content is the whole reason to be here, so I think almost everything should load after it.
In some ways Oliver is right in how little value those buttons add. AddThis lets me track the sharing activity from the admin control panel, and so far I've noticed that, on any given day, about 2% of my visitors share a link. Each shared link generates a little over 2 extra visits, and that adds accounts for about 3% of my site's traffic. What's more, this plugin let'sme track which posts are shared, and that tells me what old content is popular. Useful info, that.
Of course, that's just what I get from this, and it's not the reason I added the buttons in the first place.
I have share buttons on the post pages because someone asked. As you probably know it's now quite common for some to tweet, share and recommend content to their frineds. That's actually always been true, but thanks to the web it's now 10 times easier.
And that leads me to one thing Oliver got wrong. He thinks the buttons will eventually go away. He doesn't give a reason but I suspect that he expects them to pass from favor. I disagree; people like to share and the buttons fill that need. Whatever replaces the buttons will need to fill that same need.
While I can understand Oliver's complaint from an aesthetic viewpoint, as a practical matter his arguments are at best flawed. I think the buttons fill a different need than the one he rails against, and so long as 1, people use them and 2, they're not a bother, I don't see them going away.