Social share buttons are everywhere these days, especially since search engines admitted that social signals are being used in their algorithms. The idea behind social share buttons is simple - give readers an easy way to share your content and help your site reap the social and SEO benefits. Share buttons, used properly, can help promote your content. But fewer share buttons (or none) can be just as effective.
Let's take a look at the three most common places you find social share buttons:
I'm not a fan of share buttons on a B2B website's static pages. While share buttons make sense on a B2C e-commerce site like Levi's (shopping has always been a social experience, even before you could do it online), most B2B website owners don't have static website content that is inherently social. Think about it, what would someone actually be tweeting from a static web page? What value is in it for them or their social network if they share it? It's probably not particularly newsworthy, funny, inspiring, thought-provoking, heartwarming, or entertaining, to compel someone to share it. After all, your static content is designed to convince someone to convert, right? That content is supposed to get you new customers, not social shares.
Social share buttons on a B2B website's static pages are a waste of space. If you wanted to keep it social, use that space instead to showcase your social network profile buttons so customers can connect with your brand. Better yet, use that space for a call-to-action! Drop in a newsletter sign-up box, a link to download a demo or white paper (which actually might turn into truly shareable content), or list the company phone number. Each inch of your website is valuable real estate and you want to ensure you're maximizing its potential.
Incorporate social share buttons on your B2B company's blog. After all, a blog is designed to get your target audience to share your content, right? Whether you want inbound links, social signals, brand awareness, industry authority, or other benefits that comes from content marketing, getting readers to share your blog content is the first step. You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to share your content without them actually having to leave your site to do it.
Think about all the hard work you put into your SEO and content marketing campaigns to drive targeted traffic to your site. Once someone lands on your blog, you want them to stay and be engaged. It's kind of difficult for a visitor to convert if he's been spirited away to Facebook. But it's foolish to not recognize the value of shared content, especially since social signals are becoming more meaningful for SEO. Share buttons give you the best of both worlds. Readers can easily post your content to the social network of your choice without having to leave your blog, meaning you have the opportunity to drive them deeper into your content or even back over to the main site.
Although every site is different, I've found that it often works best to put the social share buttons at the top and bottom of each blog post. When someone comes to the end of your blog post and is really excited about what they just read you want to give them the opportunity to share it. Even the few extra seconds it takes to get to the top of the page can diminish their desire to share because they have to actively go looking for it. You want the share to be easy and instant.
Just because you use social share buttons on your B2B blog doesn't mean you need to use every available share button. Many new bloggers think they should add every possible social share button a reader might want just in case. Tweet it; pin it; post it; Like it; share it; Digg it - do whatever you want but please just share my content! Sounds a little desperate, right? Think about your audience and what kind of sites they are most likely to submit your content to. A B2C company like a clothing retailer or interior designer might want to include a button for Pinterest because their products are visual. A small business IT provider might not really need to give Pinterest its own button; instead they may benefit more from a LinkedIn share button. You want to highlight the buttons that your readers are most likely to push.
Here's an idea: what if you removed share buttons from your B2B e-newsletters? If it's a promotion or deal of some kind, of course you want your recipients to share it - email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and however else they want - but what if it's just a regular old newsletter? What good does it do for your SEO if someone shares it? Wouldn't you prefer if the newsletter's content, especially if you use your blog's content, be shared directly? That's what I thought anyway, when I decided to remove the share buttons from my newsletter.
I use older blog posts, provided they are still relevant, in my newsletters along with a few other things. On a whim I decided to take the share buttons out and see what would happen. In the end, I saw that more people were sharing the blog posts directly than they ever had before. Anyone who wanted to share the content still could, but they didn't have to share the whole newsletter anymore, just the one piece they actually cared about. In the end I think it actually made for a better user experience for my recipients and more social shares for me!
So What's a B2B Site Owner to Do?
Like most other aspects of social media marketing, you need to figure out what social signals work best for your website and your audience. This article, "Sweep the Sleaze," published by Information Architects, essentially says to get rid of them because "If you're unknown, social media buttons make you look like a dog waiting for the crumbs from the table." Other online marketing experts recommend using only three or four share buttons that your audience actually uses. The use of share buttons should be constantly tested and tweaked. As new social sites come and others go, the share buttons you use will have to reflect that. Find what works best for your site and your readers and run with it!
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Nick Stamoulis is president and founder of Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of experience Nick has worked with hundreds of companies small, large, and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing, and Internet marketing experience Nick has successfully increased the online visibility and sales of clients in all industries.
March 19, 2014