What’s the use of using Social Media Buttons?

Recently a client asked my at add “these little buttons” to his website, shortly before it was about to go online. I basically advised him not to add any Social Media Buttons to his website – he reacted a bit surprised.

So I actually had to explain my recommendation not to add Social Media Buttons to him – which first was not really easy. And in the end it is probably equally difficult to aswer the question why you would want to add those buttons in the first place. What is the great advantage of using Social-Media-Buttons? Who is benefiting from those buttons? What are the actual advantages of of using Social Media Buttons – and what are the disadvantages?

Advantages of using Social Media Buttons

disadvantages of using Social Media Buttons

Popular Social-Media-Buttons with built-in counters

First you’ll have to acknowledge that Social Media Buttons are in fact very popular. Looking around the internet you may get the impression that almost every website offers at least some kind button-set visitors can use to share or like articles by just clicking some button. Buttons for sharing content on Twitter, Facebook and Google+  seem to be almost some type of obligation. And the potential benefit appears to be quite tempting: one click, and your article could go viral. New visitors, new readers, more clicks – who wouldn’t want that for his/her precious website? And all for free? Kind of – at first sight integrating Social-Media-Buttons with your webdesign seems to be free of charge. But to me the price I would have to pay would still be to high.

Disadvantages of using Social Media Buttons

Already the word “free” makes me hesitate. How could such a valuable service be free? Usually there is a price to everything – and with free Social Media Buttons it’s just the same. The first thing you are basically ask to do is give away some of your precious web estate for free. Not only that you might have to adjust your layout to look good with the buttons – you most likely also put the logos of some of the largest company on display – for free.

Additionally using Social Media Buttons the weight and loading time of your website will increase. And even if those big company do have ultra fast servers and connection, the still will be additional images and/or scripts to be loaded.

And – last but not least – with some buttons you even also give away some of your users’ data – for free. And at least to me this is probably the most important argument against the use of “Like-Buttons”. Even if you actually do not give away any data automatically, because you use some sophisticated script to protect your users’ data, you still give the impression that you might give away user data.

One general misconception seems to be, that there would be no or at least less social sharing without the buttons. But basically everybody knows how to copy and paste a URL – and most of today’s smart phone have some kind of built-in functionality that allows users to share a website with one click. And this way, sharing a link manually, people are probably also more likely to actually add a personal comment to the shared link – and in my opinions this would then again add way more value to your website than any fully automatic “free” Social-Media-Button ever could.

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