Where you can stick your social networking buttons

Why is it that every website seems compelled to include social media buttons these days? More to the point, why do they do it with no thought as to the best place to stick them!

It’s probably best to get something straight before this goes any further. I like social media. I get amongst it on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I love sharing things, and having things shared with me. Up to a point.

There are just two things I don’t understand. Why every website out there thinks people want to share its content, and (assuming they do) why they put the social media buttons in the most ridiculous place possible.

I can’t ever imagine a time when I’d want to +1 a pint of milk, like a toothbrush, or tweet about an item of clothing. It may be that I’m just not down with the cool kids, and I’m quite prepared to admit I may be the only person that feels this way.

So, on the assumption that there could well be legions of dairy product enthusiasts out there, just waiting to share their favourite carton of moo juice with their social networks, why do websites make it so awkward to do it?

If you decide you’re going to like, +1, tweet or share something, you really need to know what it is first. So why (oh why) do so many websites put all the social networking buttons before the interesting bit of the page?

It might not matter so much if you’re sighted or a mouse user, but if you’re not, the experience is quite frankly a pain in the social network! There are few things more irritating than wading through umpteen different buttons, before you’ve read the content you’re being invited to share.

What makes it worse, is that if you do decide to let out your inner dairy enthusiast and share something with your social networks, you then have to go all the way backwards in order to do it.

So where should you stick your social networking buttons? The short answer is after the content you’d like people to share. Think of it like a form. You want people to take some action once they’ve completed doing something else. In this case, you want people to share your content once they’ve finished reading it.

For screen reader users or people who don’t use a mouse, this means putting it after the main content in the source order. Visually it may mean putting it underneath the main content, or perhaps off to the right somewhere instead.

Now if you don’t mind I’m off to look at some lovely milkshakes I heard about somewhere…

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  1. Darren Taylor says:

    Léonie on a website I’m technically responsible for there were social networking buttons at the foot of content pages and feedback we witnessed and received from user testing sessions was, that users seen these as the page footer; despite there being more content (in the site footer) below.
    So without evidence and perhaps on a per site basis, it’s perhaps logical to think after content is the best position to place social networking buttons but my experience says otherwise.

  2. “So why (oh why) do so many websites put all the social networking buttons before the interesting bit of the page?”

    [sarcasm]Because getting people to share your content is so important it has to go above the fold.[/sarcasm]

    Trying to get decision makers to think in terms of user journeys rather than “what is most important” can be a frustrating experience.

  3. Mel Griffiths says:

    I use a screen reader and am also frustrated by the positioning of social networking buttons. If the article is something in which I am only mildly interested, badly placed buttons can sometimes determine whether or not I can be bothered to read the main article having first navigated the Facebook frame, the Twitter frame, etc etc!

  4. Vince Thacker says:

    Couldn’t agree more, and it’s worrying to note that some of the worst offenders are the heavyweight newspapers. Anyone would imagine you go to such places to read the news, but often I’ve lot the will to live before I find the article highlighted in the title bar.

  5. Bim Egan says:

    Absolutely right Léonie, it’s becoming one of the most frustrating and frequently encountered parts of way too many web pages. The end of the article is the only logical place otherwise it’s like submitting a book review before reading it.

    Thanks for giving this a public airing.

  6. Richard says:

    I like your tongue in cheek approach to this Léonie, I just hope you don’t get hate mail from life members of the Milk Marketing Board.

  7. Carl says:

    the irony is, you need to read the article/page before you can decide it is worth a +1 or Tweeting, so placing them at the top of the page is a waste.

  8. Leon says:

    I’m not so sure Carl, I often FB like/share an article I like the look of but don’t have time to read as a sorta public FB/Delicious thing. I’ve no problem with share buttons being just under or next to headlines and even repeated at the bottom of the content either. The best I’ve seen are the new Guardian Mashable style ones that float neatly on the left of the content the follow you down the page as you scroll.

    As for how far you should use share buttons, sure it makes sense you don’t want to add them to your contact page but you also need to look at what content you really want people to share which isn’t always just latest news etc.

  9. ks says:

    Totally agree with this. I’ve never understood why marketing execs believe that consumers want to “engage” with a brand online via social media. Most people just want to purchase their pasta sauce, toothpaste, hammer, scarf, dermatologist, condoms or onions and get on with life.

  10. Adam says:

    I am in agreement with Leon about the floating buttons. This style seems to me to be a happy medium where the buttons are not as intrusive but are readily available if and when you decide to share what you are reading.

    The other upside to having buttons scroll with the content you read is the ability to easily copy and paste excerpts of the piece. I often pull quotes as the content for my tweet. Having a button there really helps speed that process.

  11. David King says:

    Thanks for this article, Léonie.
    I had been putting the social media buttons after our press release content, but wondered if they were too out-of-view.

    I shall leave them where they are … and continue to only use them on key information pages.

  12. Redeye says:

    From an accessibility point of view this is a great article.

    Unfortunately the web is awash with “skimmers searching for kudos”. This particular breed of reader, scans the headlines, possibly the first paragraph and decides whether the content is shareable to a specific sphere of their reality and chooses the optimal button (FB, Twitter, G+, etc).

    While these people may not be valuable from a content point of view they are from a social stand point. Even the potential referrers that they bring may have little value but with Google now ranking sites against “social chatter” it’s a big consideration.

    You will get less shares putting your buttons at the bottom of the page. The trend for shares following you down the page (with some totally inaccessible JS I’m sure) is becoming the norm and its for this very reason. See http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/amd-3600-social-sharing-increase/ for a good example.

    Personally, I think you’re conclusion is wrong (still a great article though), although every case is different and should be judged accordingly.

  13. Funny thing – this post’s social share buttons are before the post itself too.

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