Social media icons…are they worth it?

Social media is important. It’s important for marketing, for customer service and for the overall experience one has with your brand or product. If anything, being on social media is a given rather than something you need to shout from the rooftops, so when it comes to putting social media on your web site, do so subtly and without any expectations.

At the beginning of March, interaction designer extraordinaire, Luke W, posted some data on just what those little social media icons on your web site get you…and in short, they don’t get you much. None of the cases he shared had more than 1% return on those icons. So are social media icons worth it? Probably not but that’s not a reason to not have them on your site…however that is enough data for me to not have social media icons be a point of design contention.

I’ve been in enough design meetings where someone insists that the social media icons be somewhere on the site…or even on every page! I would argue that the icons don’t provide any returns and don’t need to tarnish what is otherwise a good design. But in light of data, I just don’t fight it anymore…as long as the designer controls how/where they are used on the site. The icons don’t make enough of an impact to cry over.

Yet in a world of responsive web sites it’s important to note that most of our mobile devices have built-in social sharing so in those cases you might not even need icons on your web site.

You should still give people links to your business media accounts so they can contact you, but if the social media icons have extra overhead – if you’re using a plugin, for example – do your visitors a favor and don’t bother loading them when you know (or assume) someone is using a mobile device. The more data and http requests you make, the slower your site is so if you can trim some fat, by all means do it.

The bottomline is that people aren’t having any trouble sharing on social media without using those little icons on your web site, whether it be on a desktop or tablet. People want to share, period. They want to share things they find and things they love, and they’ll do that however they see fit. You don’t need to force them or even tell them that they should share. Instead of worrying about whether or your social media icons are being used, worry about how to make your web site, brand, product and experience top notch. Quality is motivates someone to share, not icons.