In defense of ShareThis

Over the last few days I’ve read some criticism of the “ShareThis” button you see on so many sites. The button allows one or two click posting to a slew of social news and bookmarking servces.

From SEOmoz‘s critique of the excellent Guardian Football’s “chalkboards”:

The share code is poorly implemented – if you click share on the widget then it takes you to a generic page full of digg and reddit links etc. I think the chances of this page going hot on digg or reddit is minuscule. I mean most of the US doesn’t even know what soccer is let alone care about individual boards. I think this could be vastly improved by targeting the mediums people ARE likely to share them on, such as email (there’s no easy way of emailing multiple people about your chalkboard and there’s no tracking of how many emails are sent), facebook etc. Since forums are big business in the football industry I think it would be great to offer a ‘lite’ embed code which is pre-formatted for forums which just shows an image of the chalkboard and links through so that people can embed them all over the place.

Then on Peter Imbres’s Point Oh!’s attack of the social media news release (found via Todd Defren‘s Twitter stream):

The obligatory social bookmarking links.  If Steve Jobs issued a press release about how he was the offspring of two government baboons, I still don’t think enough people would Digg the release enough to drive any traffic.  I still don’t understand why these social bookmarking sites are being pushed on people when the content doesn’t justify it.  Case and point: the total amount of people who click “Digg” for this release is a whopping zero.  Want to know how many “Technorati’s on this release”?  Spoiler alert…zero.

Both miss the point in spectacular fashion.

The point isn’t how many people have or will click to save/tag/submit, the point is making it easy for them if they want to save/tag/submit. For the price of inserting a ShareThis button (about one hour to set up an account and then to actually copy-paste the code into a template) you have a powerful SEO tool that could generate many, many backlinks and much more traffic.

Will it be implemented on news releases that have no news value? Of course.

Will it be implemented and never used on some releases? Of course.

Will it be put on blog posts that do not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being saved or tagged? Of course.

Is it worth the time to put it on just in case? Of course – the marketing game is all about persuading people on the margins. If this button pushes one or two or three people on the margins to tag/save/submit the article or news release or blog post, then it is well worth the investment.

As Andy says, you need to remove all barriers to sharing.

For that reason, I am long on the ShareThis button.

4 Responses to In defense of ShareThis

  1. Judy Gombita says:

    Ed, not to forget that the “Share This” button is also great for those millions of people who aren’t participating in other aspects of social media.

    Personal case study: my recent post about my 15-year-old niece’s dream to go to Kenya this summer as part of the Me to We program (http://tr.im/eg97) has been read by a number of seniors, middle-agers and teenagers who hitherto had never visited/read a blog. Sarah’s nana wanted to share access to the post with her own friends, but didn’t know the easiest way to do it. I told her just to hit the Share This option…and then it would be made easy for her to send the link by email (or whatever). Nana is in her 70s, and was thrilled that it could be so easy (as she doesn’t really like computers, except for how they allow her to communicate with people far away and research things.)

  2. Tom says:

    Hi Ed,

    I think saying “miss the point in spectacular fashion” is a little unfair. I’m generally a huge fan of ‘share this’ style features for all of the reasons that you suggest. I completely agree that you should make the barrier to sharing as low as possible. My point is that by using a generic ‘share this’ application they are cluttering up the process and actually, since there’s no need for the digg/reddit buttons they’re actually adding barriers to share the application via mediums that their users will actually use (like email).

    As I mentioned, there’s no ability to share in forums that don’t allow the embed – I think this is an opportunity missed by using the generic ‘share this’ widget which they should be making use of since so much of their audience hangs around in forums rather than on digg/reddit.

    Thanks

    Tom

  3. peeta says:

    I think I agree more than I disagree. Obviously something like a “ShareThis” button can be useful for a variety of reasons but if you’re developing a press release I don’t think it’s a very high impact feature. For one, it very rarely gets used and, secondly, most active members of communities like Digg and Delicious have toolbar buttons and other ways of adding content. You may say “what’s the harm in just including the bookmark links?” Well, let’s not forget that PR “pros” don’t have a great reputation when it comes to transparency and most of these communities wouldn’t benefit from having a bunch of PR releases links dumped into them with some false Digging to push their rankings up. Overall, I just think that there should be a greater emphasis on solid SEO in social media press releases and less of an emphasis on quick-fix Web 2.0 technologies that most stakeholders are unaware of to begin with.

    @Judy I completely agree with you on the “email to a friend” feature. I consider this to be a purely word-of-mouth tool, as opposed to social bookmarking, and any barriers you can eliminate there make perfect sense to me.

  4. Judy Gombita says:

    Peeta, delighted to hear you agree. Of course I think the “email to a friend” feature is best suited to a significant chunk of the (say) 45-and-up-aged crowd.

    Regarding the teenagers (most of whom had never visited/read a blog before), I was very amused to watch all of the links come in to that post on PR Conversations via Facebook. Sarah updated her profile, and then it seemed many of her young friends also posted information about her featured interview. (Generally I couldn’t tell whose Facebook account the links were coming from, but I was able to identify the account of the girlfriend of Sarah’s older brother. And it’s quite wonderful that the GF was doing her “share this” bit, as the two of them adore one another, both only having brothers for siblings.)

    Different strokes for different-aged folks, eh? So why not include the “Share This” button in the mix?

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