Before answering that question, let’s clear up a point of frequent confusion. There are actually TWO completely different kinds of social media buttons you can put on your site, and they serve two completely different functions.
Follow vs. Share
The first is the Social Follow button. A Social Follow button allows your readers to “follow” you (and your news feed/postings) in a particular social media channel. For Facebook, the social follow button allows your website visitor to “Like” your Facebook page (or, if you’re using your personal profile, to “Friend” you). For Twitter, the social follow button allows them to Follow you on Twitter. Etc.
The second social media button type is the Social Share button. This button allows visitors to easily share a link to your web page with THEIR social media followers. If they are on your About page, for example, when they click the Twitter share button, that page’s link will appear in their Tweet. Similarly, if they click a Facebook share button, that page’s link (and image) will appear in their Facebook news feed.
Which social media buttons should I have on my site?
Again, this varies by the type of button.
For Social Follow buttons, you want to have one for each social media channel in which you are reasonably active. If you aren’t active on Google Plus, then don’t waste your visitor’s time by sending them there to follow you. Most authors will only have a couple of Social Follow buttons.
For Social Share buttons, you want to have all the major social media channels represented, and even minor ones if you think your visitors (and potential readers) might use them. Since share buttons send information to the visitor’s social media feeds, what matters is which channels they are active in, not you. Best advice is to add more, not less.
Where do I put them?
Social Follow buttons should go on most if not all pages of your site, and where they go is partly a function of your site’s design. The three main options are:
Top right-hand corner of each page. By far the most common, and people generally look there to find them, so if your design permits, put them there. The blue bar example is from my website, an is a permanent part of the top navigation bar, which ensures that the buttons are visible at the top-right of every page.
Primary sidebar. Usually on the right, the social follow buttons should go near the top of the sidebar, especially if they aren’t on the top right of the page itself.
Footer. Another popular location, but less effective than the first two.
All three. If you have the space why not?
“Find Me” buttons: Many authors add “Find Me” buttons with their “Social Follow” button set. Find Me buttons take readers to your satellite sites, such as author pages on Amazon, Audible, Goodreads etc. They aren’t social media follow buttons per se, but do get lumped in with them on many sites.
Social Share buttons perform best when they are very handily accessible from the content you want them to share. Here are some options:
At the bottom of the content (page or blog post). The idea here is that your reader will most likely be in the mood to share something right as they’ve finished reading/enjoying it. I personally like this one the best.
At the side of the page. There are social sharing plugins for WordPress that will create a vertical panel of Social Share buttons and have it slide down the page/post as the reader scrolls. This keeps it handy and a reader can decide to share even before finishing the content.
At the top of the page/post. Many people do this, but I confess it makes little sense to, in effect, ask someone to share something before they’ve had a chance to read it. The only plus is that if you’re getting lots of “shares” then the high share count displayed with the buttons might get an on-the-fence reader to actually plunge into the content.
How to I actually get them on my site?
If you are using a WordPress self-hosted site, then you can accomplish all of the above by installing any one of several good (and free) plugins. In fact, some premium WordPress themes have Social Follow/Social Share capabilities built in (true of my site). Just Google “WordPress Social Media Buttons” to find what’s currently out there. As of this writing, the “Social Sharing Toolkit” is my favorite free option.
Some social media platforms provide Social Follow “widgets” (chunks of HTML code you can copy and paste) that you can put on your site that allow your reader to follow you without even leaving your site, which is excellent! Facebook’s “Like Box” is a great example – and I use it on my site in addition to the Follow buttons.
If you’re not using WordPress, you’ll have to get in touch with your web designer and work out how you can most easily accomplish this. Use this post (starting with the summary below) to describe what you need done. You can also find people on Fiverr.com who will do this for cheap.
- There are two types of social media buttons that go on your website:
- Social Follow – lets readers follow you on the social media channels you are active on
- Social Share – lets readers share content from your site on the social media channels that they are active on
- Add Social Follow buttons on most pages, prominently on the upper-right of the page.
- Add Social Share buttons near (preferably at the end) of the content to be shared, be it a page or a blog post.