By Jamie Beckland | Posted on September 29, 2011
Since it’s launch last year, it seems like the Facebook Like button has been cropping up all over the web. But, according to a recent study by BrightEdge, the Facebook Like button is only on 10.8% of the top 10,000 websites.
Given all of the industry discussion around building Likes and Fans, it’s surprising how little penetration Facebook’s own button has reached. This low penetration rate belies the confusion and frustration around the overwhelming amount of upheaval in social buttons that websites must navigate.
There are many buttons, and many ways of sharing. Here is an overview of the landscape for social endorsement buttons, and what we can expect in the future.
Previously, Facebook had both a Like and a Share button. Like was a passive endorsement, and the result was a post on the user’s Facebook Wall.
An example of the previous Like functionality.
The Facebook Share button originally created a Status Update for the user to post in Facebook. However, eventually Facebook stopped promoting their Share button, and instead built out the functionality of the Like button to include posting a full status update.
Twitter and Google offer similar buttons, but the functionality is somewhat different. Twitter’s tweet button opens up a modal with a Twitter message and link prepopulated, with the ability to edit the text before tweeting.
Google’s +1 button is counted as a vote that influences your search results when you do a Google search, as well as your friends’ and contacts’ search results, when you are connected to them from a Google service. If you have a Google+ profile, your +1 is also shared there.
Twitter’s tweet button, from the blog post announcing its launch.
Google’s +1 button, from the blog post announcing its launch.
Dozens of other social networks also have their own sharing functionality. As each network has built sharing capabilities, the number of buttons on websites has proliferated to an overwhelming degree.
It’s common now to see sharing icons for at least four networks, and up to twenty networks, on every piece of content. Not only is it detrimental to the overall page layout, it creates a confusing user experience.
It’s easy to see why this has happened: each social network wants users to share pages in their stream. Websites want users to select the network that they prefer. So, users end up faced with an overwhelming plethora of buttons that clutter up the page.
A jumble of buttons on Techcrunch
Right now, this is problematic, but get ready for it to become a huge headache. At Facebook’s f8 developer conference, they announced the ability for websites to create a button with any verb – not just “Like” or “Share,” but also “Read,” “Listen,” “Watch,” or “Buy.” That means we will soon be inundated with many, many more buttons on web pages, including multiple buttons from Facebook; we can expect other social networks to pile on to the verbification of buttons all over the web. All of these buttons are starting to cause button fatigue.
Janrain Engage’s social sharing widget allows the user to share to multiple networks simultaneously, with one simple button on the page. This improves user experience, page design, and actually increases total sharing because users don’t have to go through separate sharing flows for each social network.
Janrain’s sharing functionality posts status updates to networks similarly to the native buttons. On Facebook, the post appears as a Status Update; on Twitter, it’s a tweet. Engage supports up to four networks in our out of the box widget, which we have found to be effective because it does not paralyze users with too many choices.
We also support more networks through custom interfaces developed on top of our APIs. This has the additional benefit of allowing you to align sharing icons with your brand look and feel. This positions your own brand as socially savvy, and forward-thinking.
Giving users control of their sharing through offering sharing buttons makes sense; but streamlining that experience is respectful of your users and drives greater adoption, sharing, and traffic, which is the ultimate goal.
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