How To (Efficiently) Load Social Sharing Buttons with WordPress
Before I begin, let me just say that I am extremely picky about anything that involves loading any scripts or dependencies from a third-party site.
This allows popular social networks like Facebook to collect a bunch of data about your site visitors (we all know how social networks love big data), in exchange for giving you integrated liking/tweeting/sharing functionality directly from your site.
This can potentially turn into a good source of free traffic, which can then turn into an expanded audience for your content. Problem, loading these scripts tend to take a while, and can noticeably slow down your site on the initial page load.
Enter Floating Social Bar
This is exactly why WPBeginner‘s Floating Social Bar plugin caught my eye. What is particularly interesting about the plugin is the social script loading is delayed until a user mouses over them. Check out the screenshots to see how easy it is to use.
This way, the scripts can’t slow your site down on the initial page load. Also, the mouseover activation acts as a sort of user intent logic. Although they can hover over them inadvertently, usually a user wouldn’t hover over them unless they actually intended to share your content with them.
Before that, a placeholder image along with a cached share count is displayed, designed to look exactly like a normal share button.
Limited Social Networks
Most social sharing plugins I’ve seen for WordPress include pretty much every social network under the sun, including niche ones that wouldn’t really be relevant to your site content at all.
This isn’t a joke: AddThis allows users to “submit” your site to the W3C Validator. It’s almost comical how overboard most of these things go, so it’s refreshing to see a plugin that actually limits your options.
Even worse, I’ve seen sites that take full advantage of all the social networks other sharing plugins support, leaving a huge ugly space below your content full of 50+ sharing icons that 99% of your users never use.
If you check your analytics, and find very little incoming traffic from a specific social network, it’s safe to say that sharing functionality can be removed from your site. People can always share manually.
WPBeginner’s plugin cuts it down to the most popular ones, and gives you an easy to use drag & drop interface to add, remove, or rearrange the order in which they appear.
The “Floating” Part
Remember, this plugin is called Floating Social Bar, because the social icons stay in a fixed position once the user scrolls past a certain point. Hence, you’re never letting them forget that option is there to share the content.
You can always disable the floatiness if you don’t want that.
Make It Easier For Users To Share Your Content
I like to think, that if a reader finds my content truly compelling, they can always manually share it on the social network of their choice. The Theme Foundry makes a good argument on why you don’t need sharing buttons.
Copying and pasting a URL isn’t really that hard to do. But simply clicking a like button is even easier, plus the user stays on your site longer.
Social network traffic is becoming something harder and harder to ignore, but you have to make sure your site loads as fast as possible, only loading scripts when absolutely necessary. And that’s exactly why, if you’re going to use a social sharing plugin, I recommend Floating Social Bar.