Is it Pointless to have Social Sharing Icons?
Social Media sharing icons are becoming ubiquitious, Clients ask for better social media integration on their website and they generally mean they would like these social media icons on their page/site/content. In my oponion there are two types of social media icons by function. The first, which I’m not going to spend too much time on in this post, is the “We have a presence here” Icons
These Icons are in a consistant place on a website, typically in a header or a footer, and simply communicate to the user that we have a presence on these social networks. These icons used to say Find us on Facebook, or Follow us on Twitter, or Fan us on Facebook, or even Like us on Facebook. (There is so much wrong with the last one, but thats for another day!)
I have no problem with these Icons, they do what Icons do best, effectively communicate a larger concept, and frankly the larger concept (we have a presence on this network or that network) belongs on these sites.
These Icons have their place and are not for debate in this post, however the other Social Media Icons are.
Content Sharing Icons
These are the icons you most often see at the bottom or top of a blog post, an individual piece of content that can be shared on one of these social networks. sometimes they are labeled “Share and Enjoy” othertimes they are not labeled. And even in this category there could be two different sub-categories, but for today’s arguments I’m going to lump them into one. It is my attempt in this post to show how these social media icons are over used, unnecessary, and an old concept rehashed.
Social Media Icons are Over Used
We are starting to see these Icons everywhere, and I’m not referring to the Facebook “Like” button that will grow to ubiquity as well. Any site that is current is or has already applied these to their content. The ones that make me laugh the most are contact us pages with the sharing icons. Who would want to have a discussion about your contact page? Do you really think that’ll go viral? I mean your phone number is sexy and all but I doubt I want to share that with my grandma on Facebook ;)
Social Media Icons are Unnecessary
And why have these Icons? Anyone who is savvy enough to use these networks, who would really make something spread/go viral is going to know how to copy/paste the URL in the network they want to and with the options/content/context that they want to set.
Most of my target audience with this blog is similar in skill set as I am, I rarely find a need to use these, I much prefer to put my own title, my own bit.ly account information and my own privacy settings on something I share, why then wouldn’t I just copy/paste the URL?
Sharing Icons are the same as tell a friend from the 90s
Yeah you remember those… where it had a little email envelope, may have used the word share, but most often said tell a friend. You could then type in their email addy, and yours, a subject and a message. Ironically Email is still the best social network to make content go viral. But we can’t access the analytics on that. (Note the lifehacker image to the right, still has an “Email this” link.)
Email and Tell a Friend also prove the previous point of being unnecessary, most people copy and paste urls into emails, they don’t use tell a friend, why do we think they will use the sharing icons?
The long and short of it: If you create good (remarkable) content people will discuss and share it, no matter what tool set you provide, or don’t provide for them. So if you are adding these icons to then label your site as integrated with social media you are missing the boat. It’s about the substance of your content, not the icons.
Before you get all crazy on me in the comments for slamming icons you love, realize that some of what is written here may be from me playing devil’s advocate. I’m trying to argue for the oponent’s side to see if they are right. With that said, what parts of this article do I agree with? Good luck.