You probably don’t need me to tell you how important social media is when it comes to building an online presence. Each of the major social networks represents an opportunity to place your brand in front of a highly targeted audience – ignore them at your peril.
So when it comes to building your blog, you should seek to integrate your social media networks in whatever way you deem necessary. Approaches will vary depending upon goals, priorities and opinion, but I believe that there are three “core types” of social media plugins that most blogs should look to utilize.
In this post, I am going to take you through those three different types, and offer up suggestions for each.
1. Social Sharing
Let’s start with the most obvious choice. The more shares your posts get, the greater your exposure is likely to be. Giving people an easy way to share your content is a no brainer.
Putting your choice of plugin to one side, I would recommend that you choose only a handful of sharing options to present to your visitors. It has been proven time and time again that too much choice is a bad thing. There are of course the three main contenders:
You then may choose to add additional options based upon your content and/or the demographic of your visitors (e.g. Pinterest for recipe blogs, LinkedIn for corporate blogs).
Let’s take a look at the three plugins I recommend for social sharing in WordPress.
I personally consider Digg Digg to be the ultimate sharing plugin for WordPress. It allows you to place sharing buttons both above and below content, as well as to the side in a floating bar:
The choice of sharing options is enormous, and the customization options offer up pretty much anything you would care to fiddle with. Digg Digg was purchased by Buffer (whose co-founder we interviewed just the other day) not too long ago, and they have been working hard ever since to tweak and perfect it. The end result is a solid and well-performing plugin.
Although Digg Digg is my favorite social sharing plugin, Shareaholic runs a close second place. It has a different approach, adopting a funky and engaging style in the hope of attracting more shares:
It offers plenty of customization options, just like Digg Digg, but does not offer a floating sharing bar. It does however offer a few additional features, such as a floating sharing bar at the top of the page, related posts, and something else that I will discuss later on…
Bonus – Easy Tweet Embed
In a nutshell, Easy Tweet Embed is a social sharing plugin I co-developed that can help you boost the number of tweets that your posts receive by an enormous amount.
The plugin allows you to easily embed pre-populated tweets within links on your post, like this:
Giving your visitors something interesting to tweet about (beyond simply your post’s headline) will encourage more tweets than you would have otherwise seen.
2. Social Media Accounts
Typically speaking, you would like visitors to your blog to subscribe. Whilst subscribing can take many forms (and email is certainly ideal), converting visitors into social media followers is never a bad thing.
With that in mind, it is commonplace to offer up consolidated sharing options on your blog (typically within the sidebar). I prefer two particular plugins to get this job done.
I like Social Media Widget for two reasons. Firstly, it is easy to use and displays clean and simple icons for your social media accounts:
Secondly, it gives you an option for just about every single social media network in existence. Over 50 in fact, including various other options, such as Skype and IMDB. Nothing is missed off here.
If Social Media Widget is a little too plain for your tastes, you’ll probably like WP MashSocial Widget, which featured in March’s edition of our Plugins of the Month series.
Inspired by Mashable’s social media widget (as the name indicates), WPMashSocial Widget offers up a sleek and attractive way of displaying your social media account options. At the time of writing, we are actually using the plugin on our blog:
As with Social Media Widget, there are a plethora of customization settings to fiddle around with. If you like the look of WP MashSocial Widget, chances are that you will be able to adjust the functionality to suit your needs.
3. Social Analytics
This is an alien concept to many beginner bloggers, but in the same way that you analyze your traffic, you can analyze social sharing. Social analytics take you one step above “normal” analytics by exposing the very human element of social sharing. Doing so can give you a keen insight into what you can do in the future to boost social engagement – whether that is by simply writing more “shareable” content, or engaging with social media “power users” who have previously shared your content.
You can actually access social sharing analytics from directly within Google Analytics, which is perhaps worthy of a guide on another day. In the meantime, let’s take a look at a couple of plugins that can provide you with easily digestible data.
Yep – it’s Shareaholic again, with more than one string to its bow. All you need to do is plug in your unique Google Analytics ID, and it will begin pulling all of the necessary data. What you will be left with is a selection of colorful charts for analysis, with everything from social referral breakdowns:
To microscopic sharing analysis (e.g. who exactly is driving traffic to your site via social media networks):
You can do a lot of good with this information, such as dividing your resources amongst social media networks depending upon the kind of return you can expect from your investment, reaching out to influential sharers in the hopes of further boosting your exposure, or analyzing your most shared posts in the hopes of replicating previous successes.
What Else is There?
In this article I have featured my favorite handful of social media plugins, but have of course missed many more. Notable exceptions include Facebook for WordPress (perhaps missing for a good reason at this stage) and Tweet Old Post (great for driving traffic but buggy at times).
You may well have your own opinion as to what should have been featured in this article. So please, let us know about your favorite social media plugins in the comments section below!
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Mario Sundar