Social media is now one the most important traffic sources for every website. A good quality content, image, infographic can go viral on social media and give a big traffic boost to a website. This is why it is so important, that you make as easy as possible for your visitors to promote your content by sharing to social networking sites. The easiest way to achieve it is using social sharing WordPress plugins. Such plugins add a set of social media buttons to your site. Usually there are at least few such buttons added, each one representing different site (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and so on). By clicking on social media buttons visitor gets an easy interface to share the content through his/her profile. Another benefit is that such buttons being visible on your website encourage visitors to do some social sharing.
In this article we will describe 5 WordPress social sharing plugins available free in WordPress plugin directory. These are (in alphabetical order):
- Share Buttons by AddThis
- Share Buttons by AddToAny
- WP Socializer
Please note all information in this article are true for the date of its last modification.
Share Buttons by AddThis
Downloads : 1.7 M
Rating : 3.3
Link to plugin
This is one of the most popular social sharing plugins for WordPress. It allows your visitors to add your content to around 330 social sites.
There is about enough styling options. The buttons are quite nicely styled, maybe not as nicely as in Shareaholic, but they are really good-looking. You can also add your own buttons if you wish. There is about average amount of options to position the buttons. As its competitors Share Buttons by AddThis do not support custom post types. So if you will mark that share buttons should be visible only on posts the they will be visible on posts and all other custom post types. Fortunetly there is a simple code you can add to your functions.php file, that will fix it.
AddThis adds its own button at the end of the share buttons on your page. When clicked it shows a menu you which is not configurable and I find a bit disturbing. What is more this field contains 2 links to AddThis.com which badly influences your SEO. However if you play a bit with this plugin you should find a way how to remove this additional button.
Choosing the social services could be a little bit more convenient. A search function would help a lot. Scrolling through more than 300 names and icons is somewhat tiring.
This plugin has some extensive configuration options thanks to available API. But a big drawback of Share Buttons by AddThis is that it has only few options available in plugin configuration page. I do not understand why plugin authors decided to go for such solution. What makes things even worse is that both plugin configuration and the API are poorly documented. The plugin has its own knowledge base but the articles there are not very helpful and you will find no real guide which will tell you how to configure the plugin from the beginning to the very end.
AddThis offers also monitoring of copied text. This is extremely useful function, as it allows you to track the text someone has copied to a clipboard and then passed somewhere else on the web (social media networks or his own website). This feature will show you which parts of your text (phrases or words) are most interesting for your readers.
One of the strongest points of Share Buttons by AddThis is analytics, which is the best among compared plugins. They are very robust and has a lot of useful info. The analytics are only available to users who register to AddThis.com. They are also good-looking and readable.
Share Buttons by AddToAny
Downloads : 2.8 M
Rating : 4.1
Link to plugin
This plugin allows visitors to add social media buttons to over 100 sites. It also has and email tab which makes easy to share the content via the email providers like Google Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook.com (Hotmail), AOL Mail, etc.
I find Share Buttons by AddToAny having only a little configuration options in regards to appearance. You can only choose between big or small share button. There is also no option to add your own share icons or to display small icons before content and big one after. The bad thing is also that the share icons design is not unified and they do not look very good together. For the plus is extensive configuration of the additional button added at the end of the share buttons list. You can decide to use regular icon, your own, only a text or not to display it at all. This last option I have really missed in AddThis.
In regards to choosing the social media share buttons, it is quite convenient. There is no search options but it is not needed as there are 100 icons (which is quite small comparing to 300 from AddThis) and all of them are visible at once without the need of scrolling.
There are very usual social media sharing buttons placement options. As in all compared plugins there is no custom post type support. You can decide to display the share icons on top and bottom of posts or pages, on post excerpts, archive, feed and so on. There is also a php code you can copy and paste it anywhere in the page template file, but there is no shortcode you could use in document content.
Unfortunately AddToAny does not offer any analytics. There is no statistics available but you can integrate it with Google Analytics (tutorial available).
Downloads : 0.5 M (previous version is a separate plugin and had 2.1 M)
Rating : 4.0 (previous version is a separate plugin and had 3.5)
Link to plugin
You may need to create an account with Shareaholic.com to get some cool extra functionality including Social Analytics. You can find 2 Shareaholic plugins in WordPress directory. One of them is 6.x and second one is 7.x. Be sure to install the second one as it is heavily improved prior to previous version. You can easily see rating differences above.
In my opinion this plugin offers one of the most beautiful share buttons. You can set one of the 4 types, each of this types can be small big or long. You can decide to set the buttons horizontally or vertically, set the alignment and pick one of 3 types of displaying sharing counter for each one of social media buttons. A very nice additional styling feature is a cool handwritten headline you can add. The only drawback for me is you cannot write your own headline or customize existing as they are all images.
Shareaholic offers a very convenient configuration of social media networks you would like to have the buttons for. The list to choose from is quite big, but there is a very handy search function.
Quite limited is ability to place the social media buttons on your site. You can choose to have it before or after content, on pages, posts, categories or index. It does not support custom posts. So if you want to add a button to your blog posts, all custom post types will have it as well. You can disable it manually for each single custom post but, this gets really annoying when there is some more of them. There is also a shortcode available.
To be honest I have expected more from Shareaholic stats. What you get is a one big chart showing visits from social media. Right below it you can find a set of data tables showing basic info you can find in any basic analytics tool. You will find there:
- Traffic sources
- Most visited pages
- Most popular related content
On the good side of the analytics is simple, but neat design. To see anything beside main chart you need to create an account with Sharaholic and verify your site.
Downloads : 1.7 M
Rating : 3.0
Link to plugin
ShareThis allows your visitors to share your content to 120 sites and it also allows your visitors to follow your account on some of these social networks. The whole configuration is done as a step by step wizard. This is a good idea, but unfortunately the settings are not ordered in logical way, so it is not that easy to use. But the really bad part is that when you will go through all steps, at the very end you learn, that the plugin will not work at all, unless you sign up to ShareThis.com. The wizard also gets a bit annoying after you have initially configured the plugin and visit its settings to change one detail. You have to go through all the steps to find where it is.
When it comes to changing the appearance of the share icons, there are only 4 options, which is quite not enough. It is also not possible to use your custom icons. The plugin elements are not examples of top design, so if you have a high quality WordPress theme, they can stand out with its styling.
ShareThis comparing to other plugins described in this article offers more options to place the social network buttons. Apart from adding the buttons before or after the content, you can add them in the top bar, sticked to the top edge of the browser window, or s side menu sticked to the side of the browser window. Additionally to the above, you can add a ShareNow button sticked to the side of the browser window. This button allows your visitors for a quick an easy Facebook sharing.
Selecting social services is quite easy with ShareThis. There is a search field, where you place social media service name and you can choose to add share button or social plugins. In case of Facebook those social plugins would be “Facebook like”, “Facebook recommend”, “Facebook subscribe” and “Facebook send”. The problem is, that the follow and share button types look quite differently, so when you decide to have them next to each other, this do not look very good.
ShareThis has a very nice feature allowing you to track copied and pasted text. I have described this functionality earlier while analyzing AddThis.
Analytics is quite simple and part of it is based on SQI (Social Quality Index). According to my research this is an own ShareThis unit, and it is not clear how it is calculated. Apart from this, there are some standard data available. A very cool feature is you can view all data for each single page, and there is a very convenient interface to do it.
Downloads : 0.4 M
Rating : 4.3
Link to plugin
WP Socializer has a lot of options comparing to competitors. Unfortunately the settings page is organized in a weird way, so it really takes some time to learn how to use it. The documentation is very poor and does not help. There is a demo movie on the plugin page and base on this I was trying to figure out how it works.
WP Socializer has some unique features. Apart from its own buttons you can decide to use WP Socializer to embed AddThis or ShareThis share icons. You may ask what for? Because WP Socializer loads share icons asynchronously. This means they do not slow down page loading speed, but are loading apart from it with is own speed. This is very helpful in optimizing website page speed which plays an important role in SEO.
Styling options are quite average. Yu can choose between big or small social icons. There is also few hover options. But once you get acquainted with WP Socializer it will reveal very useful features. These are templates, which will allow you very easily set what, where and how is displayed. You can also take advantage of one of a dozen ready styling templates.
As all compared plugins this one does not offer support for custom post types.
WP Socializer as added feature by default displays a social icons sidebar. It is quite nice if you want to have it. The problem is if you do not, because there is no obvious way to switch it off.
WP Socializer do not provide it’s own analytics. However as I mentioned before you can embed AddThis or ShareThis buttons with it, and use their analytics.
Choosing the right social sharing plugin for your WordPress website is not an easy task. Every has it advantages and disadvantages and it rally depends on what you are after.
AddThis has a lot of options, nice buttons, good analytics, and copied text tracking. On the other side it is hard to configure, will badly influence your SEO and has nonremovable additional button displaying menu I hate.
AddToAny is quite nice with its Google Analytics integration, but has quite a few styling options and share icons are not unified so they do not look very well.
Shareaholic would be almost ideal, but it has week analytics.
ShareThis is much worse in terms of design quality, and small amount of styling options.
WP Socializer is hard to learn and does not has its own analytics.
At first I decided I will go for Shareaholic. The is a lot of styling options, and share icons look splendid. This will be the eye-catching element of my site. I will need to find a way to handle custom post types. For social media I will use Google Analytics, which offer more data than Shareaholic analytics. However I had an issue that I could not limit displaying the share buttons only to blog posts. After a month of pinging Shareaholic support without a single responce (apart from the outomated ones) I decided, that there is no point in continueing with this plugin and decided to go for AddThis with custom icons.
And what is your choice?
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