What social media sharing buttons should be on my web site?

Bruce WilsonIf you haven’t noticed them already you will now—symbols for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites strategically placed on web sites and blog posts. With a click, visitors to your site can start interacting with you. But what buttons should you use?

There are two basic functions that these buttons serve: subscription buttons and sharing buttons.

Subscription buttons allow people to quickly subscribe to your social media feeds. In other words, when someone clicks on a Facebook button of this type on your site it prompts them to Like your business on Facebook. Once they confirm that they Like your business, posts to your Facebook business page will appear alongside posts from their friends (and other businesses they like) when they log in to Facebook. When they click on a Twitter button of this type it prompts them to follow you on Twitter. And so on. Other subscription buttons include LinkedIn, YouTube, RSS (feeds for newsreaders), email, newsletters, and more. Some business sites even offer buttons that link to their own custom mobile applications that loyal followers can download and use just to keep up with that business’s posts. While many mainstream sites these days feature Facebook and Twitter buttons, businesses with a significant YouTube presence are likely to feature a YouTube button, popular current information publishers like the Huffington Post tend to offer custom applications for iPhone and other mobile devices, and so forth.

Sharing buttons allow people to quickly post a description and link to the page they are looking at to their own social media feed. For example, clicking on a Facebook button of this type on one of your pages helps them post information about your page to Facebook, where it can be read by their friends. Clicking on a Twitter button of this type helps them post (or “retweet”) information about your page to their Twitter account, where it can be read by their Twitter followers. Other sharing button options include LinkedIn, email, bookmarking sites (like Dig and StumbleUpon), and many many more. A popular option of late has been to offer dedicated buttons for Facebook and Twitter plus a “catch-all” button for a service like ShareThis, which pops-up a menu listing dozens of different sharing options covering a gamut of social activity, including many popular blog formats in case people want to post something to their blog about your page. The choice really depends upon the business model being served. Tech-centric sites (like TechCrunch) are likely to feature options like Google Buzz, the Huffington Post offers sharing options for popular blog platforms, and so on.

My advice is to start with the basics, Facebook, Twitter, and email, then consider adding one or two other dedicated buttons for social media types that are popular among your customers or business community Finally, look at using services like ShareThis and TweetMeme to simplify setup and tracking.

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