Do you need all those damned share buttons?

Can you collect all 150 share buttons?For all of my new readers. this one will be a shocker. Unlike 100% of other social media blogs, I designed the original version of The Anti-Social Media without any share buttons of any kind.

Part of that was a limitation of running the site on Tumblr. Another is that I am a curmudgeon. Since then, I’ve cautiously added share buttons to my site, starting with the Tweet button, then Facebook’s ‘like’ button. I removed the official ‘like’ button in favor of the simple share plugin I’m using now, which covers all the networks I want to hit, and is able to be styled to fit in with my site.

My caution stems from several assumptions I have about my readers:

  1. My readers are smarter than the rest of the internet.
  2. My readers know how to share an article by copying and pasting the URL.
  3. If my readers do share a post, it’s because the content was great.

So far, these assumptions have turned out to be true. My readers are smart and funny people. My readers are awesome about sharing articles they find useful without having 100 buttons. My readers are also really good about sharing the articles that are quality, not whatever crap appears in their feed that day.

It worries me when I read articles like 8 ways to use social share buttons on Social Media Examiner.  Mari Smith suggests you have a Facebook like at the top of your post, on the bottom, and on the sidebar. You should have a Tweet button, a Facebook Share button, and a LinkedIn Share button on every post. Add to that a gutter catch all of other social networks and whatever else you can fit in the header, footer and sidebar, and your site looks like a checker board of other people’s logos and branding.

And I thought I was running my own website.

Why do we assume our readers want 100 different ways to share an article? Why do we inundate them with buttons, toolbars, and chicklets that ignore any styling you’ve made for your own site?

Stop sacrificing your site to get shared. You don’t have to be a share button whore. The path of least resistance to sharing doesn’t make your content any better. Your laziness and design incompetency don’t make me want to share your article any more when it has no content of value.

Start by creating better content that people will want to share. Then, figure out where you want people to actually share your articles, and make it easy for them to do that.  You will never be popular on every network, but by choosing which networks you want to be seen on, rather than blasting every single one, you give value to those networks.

Are bad share buttons are taking over websites? Do you actually use them? What works for your blog or website? I want to know if I am the last curmudgeon left on the internet.

29 Responses to Do you need all those damned share buttons?

  1. aburtch January 14, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    I’d like to add toolbars to this list. I have yet to encounter a toolbar that was useful or helpful. Most of the time they are as bad as pop-up windows.

    Also there are some sites where I have a hard time distinguishing what and where the content is due to all the sidebars and icons cluttering up the page!

    • Rob Laughter January 14, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      I second that emotion. I despise toolbars.

      And I’ve got to say, Jay… Your website is more loaded with social media icons than mine 😉

      I just recently added a Facebook “Recommend” button. We’ll see how that goes.

      • Jay January 14, 2011 at 10:49 am #

        That’s because my site is about the social media, and every social media site has a quota of share buttons to fill or else we get kicked out of business.

        • Dino Dogan January 14, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

          LMAO…you’re a funny muthafooka 🙂

    • Jay January 14, 2011 at 10:37 am #

      Toolbars are the devil. I’ve yet to ever use one. I especially despise the Hootsuite one. There is no need to have everyone who clicks your link exposed to that madness.

  2. Sal Conigliaro January 14, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    I’d like to add ‘Affiliate links/redirections’ to that list. If I click on a link to read an article and my browser gets redirected through 4 different websites before I see the content, that gets an automatic “I’m not reading this crap”.

  3. Ms_Krista January 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Off topic but…why’d you switch to WordPress from Tumblr? Obviously not the share buttons but…

    • Jay January 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

      1. Reliability. 2. Reliability. 3. Better and easier customization. 4. Better SEO.

  4. Ms_Krista January 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Ok…I’m going throught WP remorse again… I do this about once a quarter.

    • Jay January 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

      I went through tumblr remorse for 11 months. It’s good for fun, but their servers are unreliable at best.

  5. Lance Haun January 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Count me in the group who had 150 share buttons back in the day.

    Here’s what I learned after a year of using it: my traffic hadn’t changed significantly. So, I switched to two: Facebook (because 500+ million can’t be wrong, eh?) and Twitter (because of the character limit on posts makes auto URL shortening a must). For our HR/recruiting media sites, we add a third button for LinkedIn.

    If you are a devotee to delicious, digg, stumbleupon, reddit or any number of other sharing sites, you likely have a bookmark or toolbar that you can share from already. I have a bookmark that I use to share on Google Reader and I don’t even look for the share button anymore. While not having a share button would definitely give me pause before sharing on Twitter (especially if I’m on a mobile device), it doesn’t keep me from sharing under normal circumstances.

    • Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR January 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      Lance, what do you think about “Email This” as a button? Too old-school? I feel like for an HR crowd, that’s the de facto communication tool.

      • Lance Haun January 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

        E-mail: Billions of users can’t be wrong, eh?

        I’m not opposed to it but I think most people know how to copy and paste a URL into an e-mail. I think if you’re looking to minimize the sharing via everything, e-mail is on the cusp of necessity.

        • Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR January 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

          But to Jay’s point, don’t smart internet users also know how to copy and paste a URL into Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn?

          • Lance Haun January 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

            Let’s work in some nuance here. Sharing on e-mail is easier than sharing on any other technology. E-mail has been mainstream for over a decade (and in existence for much longer). Facebook has been mainstream maybe 6-18 months depending on your definition. Any of those other services aren’t mainstream.

            So yeah, I think you can make assumptions about e-mail that you can’t about other services. And while I’m sure Jay thinks all of his readers are geniuses (who doesn’t think their readers are smart?), it still doesn’t hurt to help them post on the social networks they’re most likely to be on (the big three). Nice formatting + helping them share + not cluttering it up = win.

          • Jay January 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

            Lance, I assume my readers are smart. So far, it’s proven to be true, but who knows, I could be terribly wrong.

          • Jay January 14, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

            I think it depends on the site. Besides, I’m one of those young and spunky Millennials. We apparently don’t use e-mail.

            I didn’t even have the option to subscribe by e-mail until I made the WordPress version of this site.

    • Jay January 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

      Was back in the day 2010?

      I totally agree about the big 3. As I know Social Media people love Twitter most, I make sure I feature that prominently.I include Facebook because I can’t ignore it, but I like how I have the ability for people to share without using the ‘like’ button.

      I just can’t imagine people sharing my articles on LinkedIn, but who knows? Maybe one day they will.

  6. Leslie January 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    I think we are missing out on the potential audience of the millions of Baby Boomers and older persons (not all, of course, but most) who are intimidated by most anything online but learning (steep curve). I’m thinking of creating a company to which someone can send an article/link, we would print it off and mail a hard copy to them (or to their aging parents and in-laws). I am no social media wizard, but I am in touch with my parents and in-laws who call me daily/weekly with their computer ills. Whenever I forward my humor newsletter to them, they - you guessed it - print it off to show to all their friends. And yes, they still take every piece of snail mail they get very seriously. Does anyone else see a market for this? 🙂 We could then create a share button entitled “SNAIL MAIL” or “VIAPO”.

    • Jay January 15, 2011 at 1:33 am #

      That reminds me of Google’s April Fools a few years back where they offered to “send as snail mail.”

      I kind of wish they were serious.

  7. Lisa Irby January 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    I wrote a very similar post to this (but I have to admit your writing is a tad better. lol) Yes, I’d love to hold an anti-toolbar or anti-500 share button rally! Most people don’t know what half those buttons are, much less use them.

    • Jay January 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

      The anti-toolbar sounds like a nice tool. Someone needs to make a firefox extension for that.

  8. Jimi Jones January 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Hi Jay.

    I visit a lot of blogs during the week and have often had this same thought, just never considered posting about it. 🙂

    Too many buttons and gadgets distract from the content and overall appearance of the site itself, yet some seem not to get enough of these things, plastering them everywhere. I think it’s seen by many as “style” and something cool to do.

    • Jay January 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

      They’re like Pokémon. Gotta catch ’em all!

  9. Michael LaRocca January 19, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    All those damned share buttons make it hard for me to find the “printer friendly” button that I, as an Internet curmudgeon, absolutely insist on. The only graphics I’m interested in are NFL play diagrams and really cool stick men cartoons.

    If I see something worth sharing, I am savvy enough to manage a copy and paste of the URL, complete with some text that I wrote by my very own lonesome instead of whatever those damned buttons would have me say. The reason this isn’t a problem is because I don’t share everything I see. Just the best stuff, like this here blog. If you click a share button on 20 sites in 10 minutes, all I’m going to do about that is kick you right off my Twitter feed. Thanks for ruining my life and making me kick my friends to the curb, buttons!

    Oh, what works for my blog? Nothing yet. No man is an island, but sometimes his blog is.

    • Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR January 19, 2011 at 8:34 am #


      I find it amusing that you hate these buttons so much but your blog is littered with them.

      - Chris

    • Jay January 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

      When I wrote The Lazy and Selfish Guide to Commenting, the original post was actually going to be “No Blog is an Island.” I still believe in that. I just liked the other post title much better with the final product.

      And printer friendly button? If I ever get one of those I think I will die.


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