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Social networks are a great tool for promoting blog posts and articles. When a post goes viral, this can lead to a huge spike in visits to the site — but even a steady trickle of traffic from social networks is great!
Many site owners also like to display sharing number on posts, to indicate how many times the post has been shared on various social networks. This is used as a form of social proof, to give an indication of the level of interest the world has shown each particular post.
These numbers are easily manipulated and aren’t a trustworthy indicator of interest, but many advertisers do take them into account when deciding whether to purchase ads on websites — since posts that have been shared a lot are likely to see a corresponding level of traffic. So, being able to display social share counts can have value for site owners.
However, social share counts are dying. Some social networks quietly stopped updating their algorithm, others have closed altogether, still others allow you to share posts on their networks but won’t display how many shares each post receives.
Our feeling is that social share counts are losing relevance. If you’re not actively making money out of high share counts, we recommend removing share counts from your site altogether.
Keep the share buttons — you want people to share your posts! But getting rid of the numbers will allow you to use a lighter-weight social share plugin, which may speed your site up.
Even if you keep the same plugin, it will be doing less work, since it won’t have to gather and display the share count numbers on your site.
Most share count functions rely on third-party tools and trackers. What’s more, many pass uniquely identifiable data back to their parent companies. Using various social sharing widgets Facebook has been able to track users across the web who aren’t even logged into their Facebook accounts. This impacts your GDPR compliance, and it might be easiest just to scrap them.
Passing swathes of data back and forward between your server and third-party resources obviously takes up processing power that could be better used delivering faster pageviews to your users.
Here’s what popular plugin Social Warfare does to processing time on a busy site. Yes, that’s 7x more processing time than the next-worst plugin. Before you ask, yes — there’s page and object caching here! And it’s not just Social Warfare that has results like this — most plugins that count shares look pretty similar in their usage profiles.
Freeing up those resources for other processes mean faster pageloads and more scalability.
If you’re a blogger who is concerned about losing your social numbers, don’t be! You’ll be in good company — many great blogs like Copyblogger, Nomadic Matt, and Indie Travel Podcast don’t display share counts.
You can still share things on LinkedIn, but there is no share count.
If you still have a share count for Twitter shares, it’s not an official count, since Twitter no longer allows tweet counts to be officially tracked. Services like Social Warfare use a third party tool (such as newsharecount.com) to gather the numbers and display them on your page. These third-party tools don’t have access to historical data and only store info for the past seven days.
Another thing to be aware of is that these tools only track shares from the share button on your page, they cannot track retweets. If you’re seeing a higher number of tweets or re-tweets on Twitter than you see on your social share toolbar, this may explain the discrepancy.
Stumbleupon shut down at the end of June 2018, and merged with Mix. Mix doesn’t have a share button option, so no share counts are available. We recommend you remove the Stumble button from your site if you still have one!
Google Plus is shuttering their services in late 2018… so there goes that one too. Like LinkedIn, you can still share things on Google Plus, but there is no share count.
You have lots of options! Most sharing plugins (such as Social Warfare and Monarch) allow you to turn off share counts in the settings. If you’re displaying share numbers in more than one area (for example, in a sidebar and also inline at the bottom or top of your post) you may need to change the settings for each area individually. You can also remove Stumbleupon from your share bar in the plugin settings.
If you’d prefer to switch to a new, lighter-weight social sharing solution, and you’re a Performance Foundry hosting client, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set you up on the share plugin we use here on performancefoundry.com.
Jetpack also has a social sharing option, so if you’re already using one of Jetpack’s many other features, you could switch this one on too. We don’t recommend installing Jetpack just for social shares, though!
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