Recently, I was working on integrating social sharing buttons on a client’s high-traffic website, with the hope that even just by implementing the sharing buttons a small proportion of visitors will share / like / tweet various pages, thus having an impact on the website’s social referral traffic and number of social signals. Unfortunately that didn’t happen straight away. There were several shares, but only just entering the double-digit threshold, which was well below my expectation considering the site had received hundreds of thousands of visits in that time. Apart from making the content more ‘shareable’, here are a few little tips and tricks I learnt that you can use to try and increase your rate of social shares without having to increase your site’s traffic.
Don’t assume people are going to share your stuff – ask them to share it
This sounds so obvious, but I bet if you took ten random websites that had integrated social sharing buttons, eight or nine of them wouldn’t be doing this. Adding a call to action such as ‘help us spread the word’ or ‘tell your friends’ does have a positive increase in shares. I actually noticed this when I looked at where the social shares were coming from on my new book Get Noticed’s website. Out of 106 social shares, only 9 came from the home page (illustrated below). the remaining majority of shares (particularly ‘likes’) came from this page – where there is an explicit call to action to help us spread the word.
A/B test the location and quantity of share buttons
I had hoped to provide some recommendations on the best plugins, layouts, and on-page locations to display sharing buttons, but in reality there is no optimum universal layout for these. That said, the location and type of buttons you use do have a large impact on how accessible your content is to be shared and it is something I highly recommend trying to improve, particularly for high traffic sites where even a small improvement can result in a dramatic increase in shares. I would recommend using an A/B split testing tool such as Google Optimiser combined with onclick tracking codes applied to the share buttons to identify which layout or button produces a higher rate of shares.
Add social proof – don’t make people think they’re the first to share
Many people don’t like to feel they’re the first to share or engage with a piece of content. If your posts are highly shared or you have a Facebook Page with a large number of likes, display this close to your social sharing buttons to add ‘social proof’ to your website / content. Also make use of the settings that Facebook and Google+
Optimise your title tags, Meta Descriptions, and Images for social
Something that I think is often not taken into account when encouraging social shares is that particularly on Facebook and Google+ you want people to leave your content on their wall i.e. not ‘hide’ or remove the post, which would remove any possibility of receiving traffic from these social sites. What’s most likely to make people remove a post they’ve liked or +1’d from their profile? A crap image, spammy titles, non-sensical or embarrassing meta descriptions. Make sure they’re not just optimised for search but also social!