Social Bookmarking For Increased Interaction: Where Should You Put the Buttons?

Social bookmarking was once the number one way of socially interacting with other people online — for about two months back in the early noughties, before MySpace and Facebook blossomed — but it’s far from dead today. Digg is still doing basically the same thing today that it did back in the day: gathering the most interesting news (with the definition of ‘interesting’ being crowdsourced) and putting it all where you can read it. Reddit has turned into a hundred different cultures called subReddits that vary in their nature from arch-conservative to /b/tarded (look it up…if you don’t already know.) Other social bookmarking sites from StumbleUpon to the juggernaut called Pinterest are doing darn good business these days, too.

So it’s pretty obvious that getting social bookmarking buttons attached to your content is a good idea — but just slapping buttons all over everything is kind of slapdash (no pun intended). Let’s do a thought experiment.

You’re reading an awesome blog posting — one of the best you’ve read in a long time. It’s teaching you, inspiring you, and making you reconsider some of your fundamental assumptions about some aspect of your life. You’ve just reach the crescendo, and you’re thinking about how much your cousin Eric and grandma Norma would love to read this…when you reach a big fat “Share” button with the Facebook logo on it sitting on the sidebar.

Click. Off you go into Facebook land, where you share the article, only to get distracted by uncle Denny’s commentary about his new granddaughter, and you’ve completely lost the vibe.

The same thing can easily happen on a squeeze page, sales letter, video content, or basically anything else you happen to be consuming. So how do you avoid the phenomenon? That depends on the answer to a simple question: what are you asking the surfer to do?

If you have a strong call-to-action that ends with a sale, subscription or other such consumer event, you put the share buttons on the other side of the interaction. You want them to buy more than you want them to share, so put the purchase in front of the buy.

If this particular piece of content ends with a link to another piece of content, and that content has the call-to-action on it, the logic changes. You don’t want to distract the customer from reaching your final call-to-action, so you put the sharing buttons on the top of the initial content — so that their focus stays on what they’re consuming, and when they reach the link, they click it. Again, the purpose is to make a sale, and those people who love your content enough to scroll back up to the top and click “share” are a bonus.

Of course, if the entire purpose is to generate a social buzz, you want the buttons on a floating bar that’s constantly visible no matter where along the content they are.

In short, social buttons are amazing for generating a buzz, but you don’t want the buzz to detract from your profit margins.