Sweep the sleaze is a great article by iA’s Oliver Reichenstein. There’s also a follow up interview with Netmag if you’re interested in the current discussion about dropping social media buttons on websites.
While I understand Oliver’s sentiment and I do agree something should be done about the glut of heavyweight scripts (not to mention the tracking they do) “social sharing buttons” I can’t support a blanket “we should get rid of them” personally as I’ve seen a few people on Twitter suggesting. (I appreciate the article doesn’t say it in such binary terms either)
My experience here
I’m by no means a fan of sharing buttons in their current state but in my experience they’re not all bad so I only want to pass on my own experiences here and that in some cases social buttons do generate traffic and content sharing for some sites (my own included). I’ve experimented with various setups here from the standard cut & paste buttons provided by Twitter, Facebook etc through to the current solution which is significantly lighter and less intrusive using Sharrre (Socialite.js is similar) and found it pretty clear cut that making it easier for people to share content, err, makes it easier for people to share content.
The code and performance aspect of sharing buttons, along with design limitations if you use official buttons is often a big hit and the limitations of styling and design often make sharing buttons/areas look crudely dropped in – they often are – but with a bit of work, they can be improved. God forbid we end up with this sort of thing.
Smashing Magazine and CSS-Tricks have both fairly recently pointed out that removing sharing buttons hasn’t negatively impacted on traffic / discussion etc, I’m sure that’s also going to be true for many sites, particularly in the tech/web area but that’s not happened here. Probably because I never reach the stellar traffic levels of those sites but I noticed a significant drop off in visitors, particularly visitors weeks after a post is published and gets a random retweet from someone, when I removed sharing buttons.
Now of course you’re all smart web dude(tte)s so you know how to share a post if you want to but I found here that in my tiny corner of blogdom when I took away sharing buttons, you didn’t share as much.