Internet Strategy

Does Your Website Have Too Many Social Sharing Buttons?

Mike McGovern | Jul 25, 2013

By now, just about anyone who’s surfed the Web knows about social sharing buttons. You know, those icons you see above articles or blog posts that allow you to tweet, +1 (Google+), or “like” content? However annoying, distracting, or confusing they might be at times, it’s been documented that social buttons are widely used across the Web.

Of course, there are detractors who say social sharing buttons do more harm than good. However, the author does make two valid points worth considering. 1) Users typically find content through social networks and then might end up on your website as a result, not the other way around. 2) A Tweet button with 2 tweets on its counter and 0 Likes on a Facebook share button looks sad and desperate, which might send a signal that your content isn’t worth the user’s time to read, no less share.


Regardless, you will need to decide the best social strategy for your website based on traffic and click-through data from your analytics, and the social demographics of your audience.

What we do know is that those little icons make sharing content much easier and act as a visual cue to share. The key is to be selective as to which buttons you place on your website. Here’s why.

Too Many Social Buttons Might Slow Load Times

Social sharing buttons run on JavaScript. What this means is that each time a user lands on your website, each button communicates with its own external server in order to load and work properly. Too many buttons = slower loading time. I mention this because Google is obsessed with website speed, and might penalize your website for slow loading times. Check out Google’s PageSpeed tool to evaluate how your site is performing.


The Paradox of Choice

Too much choice might be debilitating. Within the small circles of those who research choice, the “Jam Study” is one of the more well-known studies on choice and how it affects decision making. The researchers set up a booth with samples of fruit jams, alternating between offering 24 jam choices and 6. They found that 60% of customers were drawn in by the larger assortment and only 40% by the smaller offering. BUT, 30% of those who sampled from the smaller selection purchased jam, while only 3% purchased from the larger assortment.

While this is not a definitive study, it raises an intriguing hypothesis about the paralysis of choice.

Let the Data Guide You

Google Analytics, or any analytics tool, is your friend. Hard data takes the guesswork out of the equation. Get rid of buttons that are gathering cobwebs, and keep those that are used more often. Simple right?

The Bottom Line

If you have social buttons on your website, it might be time to evaluate their effectiveness in getting your content shared. Remember that the best content strategy is to make content that is share-able, Like-worthy, and “Pin-able,” regardless of the presence of those little buttons. Create content that people need and can’t wait to share.

Social sharing buttons do have their place when used selectively. If you’re thinking of adding social buttons to your website, it might be best to start with the big 5: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Then, evaluate how each performs and make changes based on usage data.