AddThis, ShareThat, Bought the T-shirt: Great Advice for Choosing & Using Social Sharing Tools

Social Media Sharing
Social media sharing functionality has grown from basic link-sharing (way back in the 90’s) into a rich set of options for easy content sharing around the web. Let’s be clear about how important getting this right can be – content sharing is akin to a personal recommendation. Social sharing can also affect your website traffic. Some sources report that up to 33% of website visits come from links shared by other visitors. Personal recommendations drive traffic…who knew?
Many savvy nonprofits are finding that social sharing buttons are key to conversion and list growth. The team at Firefly has compiled some great advice to help your organization understand how to approach these cute little buttons as a strategic communications tactic and super-duper source of visitor data.

Choose the Right Sharing Tool

There are several very popular tools out there (like AddThis & ShareThis), as well as some lesser known names (like AddToAny, Buffer & Shareaholic). Most of these tools offer similar functionality. Some things to consider are when choosing sharing tools include:

  • What type of content will you generally share? Blogs, multi-media and website content may be better served by different social sharing tools.
  • What are your expectations for analytics? While most sharing tools have robust reporting and data tracking – some offer benchmarks so you can see where you stack up against others using these tools. Others roll right into your Google Analytics account for an integrated view of visitor data.
  • Which tool best supports your online privacy policy? This is where you want to read the fine print, folks. Some social sharing tool companies will resell your sharing data, or use it in ways that you might not expect. You may also need to update your privacy policy (you do have one, right?) in order to accurately describe what data you are collecting.

Placement Matters

Our experience indicates that the higher you place your social sharing buttons on the page – the higher the rate of sharing. The buttons don’t need to be giant and eye catching like a donate button. This will let them fit into your current site or pages without requiring a huge retooling of your layout. Here are a few more tips on placement:

  • Avoid placing them in a sidebar. Although this can be ok for folks using a desktop or tablet, this doesn’t work well for visitors using a smart phone
  • Just because your sharing tool comes with 400 different buttons doesn’t mean you need to use them all. Stick to the handful that reflect the usual and customary places your visitors might share content. Scrap the LinkedIn button if your content is geared for teenagers.
  • Experiment! Try different placements for different types of content and see what works best before you hard code them into your site.

Improve Content Share-ability

There are some simple best practices you can follow to make sure your content is worth sharing. Not surprisingly, this list looks strikingly similar to the approaches you should use to create compelling content:

  • Give your visitors a compelling image to share. Pictures are really worth a thousand words when it comes to sharing content.
  • Consider adding sharing buttons between the title and the content. This gives people extra encouragement to click one of those buttons.
  • Use humor if you can. In a recent study, humor was cited as a primary sharing motivator for all types of content.
  • Display your sharing stats once you have them. Keep those counters away until you’ve got some numbers (15 shares is the fewest shares you should display).

Monitor & Use Your Data

We really mean it! Spend an hour a month just looking at your sharing stats. What trends are you seeing – are most things shared at a certain time of day? Is most of your content is being shared on Facebook or is Google+ where the action is?

  • Focus your social media outreach on the top three places where your content is shared most frequently.
  • Identify influential share-ers and consider ways you can enlist their help with outreach for important campaigns.
  • Evaluate the other things your sharing crew is interested in. Are there opportunities for you to frame your content in ways that speak to their other interests?

We hope these tips are helpful to you as you evaluate and implement some super social sharing best practices. We’d love to help your organization think strategically about your online ecosystem – contact us at Firefly Partners!

Maureen Wallbeoff

About Maureen Wallbeoff

Maureen Wallbeoff, Vice President at Firefly Partners, began her nonprofit career with Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. Over her 16 year tenure, she rose from clinic assistant to the Director of e-Business for the organization. She possesses more than a decade of online campaign development and project management, along with a deep understanding of the strategic business needs of the nonprofit sector. Maureen works closely with nonprofits and thought leaders in today’s online engagement spaces, creating win/win solutions that work. A skilled presenter and facilitator, Maureen loves to bring people together to have authentic conversations that create consensus within an organization.


  1. Seems Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are the “Big Three” these days. If you had to guess Maureen what other ones are worth watching and how would you order them in importance?

  2. Susan Kenna Wright

    I’m just thrilled how easy it is to capture and use data. Capturing it is the first step, next we have to be sure to use it to improve our work!

  3. I really like the section about where to put the sharing icons. I get really frustrated having to scroll up and down the page looking for these, and when I can’t find them right away I just click away. I think being consistent is key.

  4. The point about not displaying your sharing stats until you have some is an interesting one. I have never really thought about it before, but this completely fits with the way I view content. If I don’t see any stats, I probably won’t think about how many times this content has been viewed or shared. if I see positive stats, I see the content as interesting or legitimate. If I see that no one else has viewed this article, I am less likely to think that it is worth my time. An interesting point!

  5. Another thing that often comes into play is how easy it is to manage the actual tools. Some are super easy, but have limited functionality. Others are amazingly powerful, but have to be frequently updated and monitored to make sure they are working as expected.

    What resources will you need to use your chosen tool?

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