The placement of social sharing buttons has a significant effect on user behavior.
There are two kinds of social media buttons, those used to encourage visitors to follow you and those used to share your content with the world. The placement of these buttons depends on the type of engagement you’re looking for.
Visitors have grown accustom to looking in the header or footer of a page for the social media buttons to follow a person, business, or brand. However, there’s no reason to force your visitors to scroll all the way to the bottom of your page when they’re looking for your social media buttons (see also: Promoting Content on Social Media: How to Increase Your Shares). Instead, place them right next to your RSS feed link in the header for easy access to your social profiles. The social media buttons used for sharing content are a little more complicated to place on the page. Here are a few suggestions.
Top of the Article Page
Some people will argue that it’s best to put the social media sharing buttons at the top of your content. This makes it obvious for visitors to find the buttons and share your content (see also: How Your Blog and Social Media Channels Can Work Together).
However, it’s rare for a visitor to land on your content page and decide immediately that they want to share your resource with their network. More likely, they will want to read what you have to say before they even consider sharing your work on social media.
Bottom of the Article Page
This leads people to move the buttons to the bottom of the content, or place them at the top and bottom for better results. While this is a good way to show that you encourage social sharing at the top of the page, and provide easy access to those buttons at the bottom of the page — it becomes a little cluttered.
Having social sharing buttons at the top and bottom of the page is a good second choice, but it’s not the best option.
In The Middle
When your site is filled with long-format content, it becomes necessary to include social sharing buttons in the middle of the content. This is because readers may notice the sharing buttons at the top, but never make their way to the ones at the bottom of the page.
We all tend to skim through articles and jump from one section to the next. If your visitor is distracted by something you say part way through the article, they may end up leaving the page to learn more. This means they might never make it to the social sharing buttons you have waiting at the end of the article, so a mid-article set can help. However, this can result in an even more cluttered article than with social sharing buttons at the top and bottom of the page.
The Top, Bottom, Middle Dilemma
Everyone has seen the floating social media bars that hug the side of a website. These are one part of the best solution. They provide easy access to social sharing buttons all the way from the top of the page to the bottom, without cluttering up the page with multiple button sets.
Additionally, the movement of these social media bars drives home the importance you place on your social media presence without being too intrusive.
However, this is only one part of the ideal solution. You also need to work social media sharing into all your online marketing materials (see also: How to Measure ROI from Social Media Marketing). This includes things like hashtag buttons, Twitter mention buttons, ‘Tweet This’ anchor text, Facebook share anchor text, LinkedIn company profile plugin, Google+ badge, Tumblr shares, and more social sharing buttons.
How do you decide where to place your social sharing buttons? Share your thoughts with us below.
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Photo: nan palmero from Flickr.