When did you last read an article that didn’t give you the option of sharing it with friends? I’m guessing it’s been a while.
Social media is everywhere — and with good reason.
For webmasters, it’s undeniably a great source of traffic: It’s free, comes with a gold-plated seal of approval from a trusted source and it reduces your dependence on search engines. For web-users, it’s a quick and easy way to share awesome content with friends. Put simply: You’d be crazy not to embrace it!
As a WordPress user, I know first-hand how easy it is to integrate sharing buttons on my websites using a dedicated plugin; with literally hundreds available for the job, the hardest thing is choosing which one to use. Sure, they all do the same job, but the way they look, feel and work can be very different.
I’ve taken an unbiased look at six of the best social media sharing plugins to help you pick the right one.
Floating Social Bar (FREE)
Initially, I was incredibly underwhelmed; there just didn’t seem to be much to it. But this plugin was designed to be slim line. There is a strong emphasis on quick load times and every feature of this free plugin has this philosophy at heart.
First, the plugin isn’t bloated with code. It doesn’t waste time supporting every social media platform known to man; it sticks with the major ones: Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Second, if the social share buttons aren’t required, the plugin won’t waste your time by loading them. Instead, a quick-loading image of the buttons is displayed, complete with counters. It’s only when you hover over an icon that the social media scripts are loaded, and all this saves precious time.
The buttons float at the top of the page, which keeps them visible at all times and encourages shares. I thought they looked clean and stylish, if not a little unremarkable.
Verdict: A nice minimal plugin that is perfect if you’re concerned about load times, but some users will be disappointed by the lack of bells and whistles (though that’s the point!).
Ultimate Social Deux ($14)
The look and feel of this plugin is great. I love the chunky coloured buttons.
You can display your buttons in three positions: at the top of the page, bottom of the page, or floating on the left hand side. Use all three options at once if you want to maximise visibility. It is disappointing to see no floating option for the right hand side, especially from a paid plugin. Your page could look cluttered if you use a left hand sidebar on your blog.
You can also fully customise the colour of each of your buttons. They come with each social media’s default colour scheme as standard, but you can adjust them to fit your own colour scheme if you want. You can also choose the hover colour.
The plugin supports eight social media services, covering all the major platforms without going overboard. Be sure to check out Kevin’s review of Ultimate Social Deux for more information on what the plugin can do.
Verdict: A stylish social media plugin with fast load times.
Flare is one of the best free social media sharing plugins available, and comes with a number of great features.
It supports a total of eight different social media services. Pick which ones you want to use, and order them as you see fit. It is great for prioritising your most important platforms.
The icons are clean and effective, with three different options to choose from: circle, square and rounded edges. They can be positioned at the top and/or bottom of the page, plus you can float them on either side. This flexibility is a huge bonus.
As well as showing share counts on individual platforms, Flare also displays total shares (they call this “Flares”). Total shares is nothing new, and many plugins let you personalise the text, but you cannot with Flare. Unfortunately, you are stuck with “Flares”.
Having a high volume of social shares encourages more users to do the same; having low numbers can have the opposite effect. With this in mind, Flare gives you the option to hide your counters if total shares is below a figure you specify. The plugin then displays large share numbers and hides small share numbers.
Increasing your social media following can be just as important as getting your articles shared, and Flare lets you create a follow widget, which is then displayed on your sidebar.
The developers are very open about the fact that the plugin is no longer developed. They are now focusing their attention on the hosted app Flare Lite. This could result in glitches down the line as WordPress is updated, which would be a real shame as it’s such a great plugin.
Verdict: A nice looking, highly versatile plugin, but a lack of development could cause glitches in future.
Digg Digg (FREE)
Personally, I find this popularity baffling; I was underwhelmed with the Digg Digg plugin. It’s not that it’s a bad plugin per se. It is just very limited.
At first glance, this didn’t seem to be the case. Digg Digg supports a lot of social media platforms; 24 in total. This is a huge upgrade on the typical seven or eight you often see. Are all these social media platforms needed? Probably not.
Sure, on paper it sounds great; in reality, though, how many of us are encouraging shares on platforms like Serpd or DZone? Anyone?
You can float your buttons on the left, or display them at the beginning or end of a post. Being unable to float on the right hand side is a limitation, as is the fact that you can’t feature the same button before and after a post. This seems a simple problem to fix, so it’s a shame it hasn’t been resolved.
The buttons themselves look quite ugly; if you care about aesthetics, there are far better choices out there. Each button comes with a small icon and a counter directly above, but it all looks very clumsy. Not what I was expecting from Buffer.
In its defence, Digg Digg is lightweight, and comes complete with lazy loading. This makes it a perfect solution for anyone solely interested in website speed!
Verdict: Ugly design and limited features. There are better and quicker loading alternatives available.
This plugin is simple to use and aesthetically pleasing, but beyond that, its functionality is rather limited. Essentially, all this plugin gives you is floating buttons. That might not sound much, but they do look superb.
Each button sits inside a little tab which slides out when you hover. The buttons can be floated on the left or the right hand side of your post or page, and are fixed in place at either the top, middle or bottom of the screen. You also get plenty of customisation options. The developer claims over 2,000 combinations, but there are only two that you will really care about.
First is the colour of the buttons. You can choose from either a dark background, white background or coloured background – everything you need! You can also choose to make your tabs coloured when a visitor hovers over one.
Second is the opacity of the buttons when not in use. They’re either bold or transparent, so you get to choose how eye-catching you’d like your buttons to be.
SocialSider supports a whopping 62 different social services, although a good number of these are nothing more than overkill. In fact, 62 is just ridiculous, and the vast majority of services you won’t even have heard of.
It’s a real shame the plugin doesn’t allow you to integrate social share buttons at the top or bottom of your page. If you want to do this, and many of you will, you are going to need a second social plugin. Will people use two social sharing plugins in order to accommodate SocialSider? I’m not so sure.
Verdict: If your primary concern is how your plugin looks, you won’t find much better. If you want more than floating icons, look elsewhere.
Floating Social Media Icon (FREE)
If you want choice in your social media icons, this is the plugin for you. From clean circles and heart shapes, right the way through to grungy bottle caps, there’s an icon set for everybody. In fact, with over 20 different icon sets, this is the plugin’s main feature, by far.
With so many different designs, it’s little surprise the plugin only supports six social media platforms, but, as you’d expect, all the main ones are there. And as well as choosing the design of your icons, you also have a lot of flexibility with size. You can pick from 16×16 pixels right the way up to 55×55.
The buttons float in the bottom right corner of the screen. I’d like to see more options for this, as they do seem rather tucked away. They also seem to float quite awkwardly. The buttons jump down clumsily about a second after scrolling. Perhaps this was because we’re used to seeing the icons at the top of the screen, but I found this distracting.
My other major gripe is that you can’t place sharing buttons at the top or bottom of a post using this plugin. If you want to add this feature, you’ll need a second plugin, and all this adds more baggage to your site.
Verdict: After getting over the initial excitement of all the different icon sets, there’s very little function to keep you satisfied.
Over to You
So there you have it, a look at six different social media sharing plugins, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Do you have experience using one of these plugins? If so, how do you find it?
And if you know of any great social media sharing plugins that are not featured on this list, please let us know in the comments area below.