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Are share buttons effective anymore?

November 20, 2017 10:37 am
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Following on from my recent post on performing UX research quickly is another example of performing this methodology to unearth a finding that I couldn’t prove. This time I turn my attention to social media share buttons. This is a topic that has already been well trodden, and they have proved not to be effective at mobile level, but it’s not like I’m original at the best of times & I always like to validate things further before making large moaning sounds at people.

What’s the problem?

Social sharing buttons perform one key action, getting users to share your content easily. It’s easy to see why they took off. Easy implmentation plus the promise that your content will be shared and served to a multitude more eyes than your easily organic efforts could ever power.

The problems with sharing buttons themselves are numerous. From cluttering designs & by never fitting correctly to more nefarious issues such as slowing down your page loading by loading 10 million scripts in the background (page speed killer) as well as adding to the never-ending pattern of allowing the big social platform from tracking your users around the Internet. So what? Everything tracks you on the Internet you say. True. But in this instance, we are allowing tracking on a massive scale that the user generally isn’t aware of.

So we are tracking users, adding to page bloat and significant reduction in page speed as well as on page clutter. This is bad on desktop, but of course worse on mobile. But, do users actually use these buttons?

Do users actually use social share buttons?

To find out, I turned to the relatively large team I work in. I fired out an email with the following scenario and waited for the results to roll in:

New Email
To:Everyone @ work
Subject:Quick question for you...

Hi there, say, do you per chance own a mobile phone? Okay, so imagine if you were using your mobile phone and you were reading a cracking article on the Internet using your phone’s browser. Suddenly you think, “this information I’ve just read, I need to share this with my friends and colleagues, immmediately”.

Okay, pause, how do you share this information?

A) do you look for and use a share button the site has put on the page to share things
B) do you use your browsers in built share button to pull up the share sheet
C) do you copy the url out of the browser bar and then visit your social app and paste it there
D) do you do something else? What is it?

Got an answer? Great! If you could let JUST ME know where you generally reside on the aforementioned scale from A-D



Out of 100+ people in the company 59 in total responded to this email before I collated all the results. The final tally is below.

  • 8.4% of respondents selected A, they use a share button on-site
  • 28.8% of respondents selected B, using browsers in built buttons to pull up the share sheet
  • 54.2% of respondents selected C, copying the url and pasting it in their social channel
  • 8.4% of users selected D, they’d do something else

Of the users that selected D, respondents commented:

If it’s creative or image led – I’ll screen grab it!

Screenshot and send

I then google the article on desktop, copy the url from the desktop browser and paste into an email. This is mostly due to different email addresses on different devices.

D being share it through the phone in built share button or screen grab and share pic.

There was some crossover, as a few primary browser share button-ers will copy and paste if the share sheet doesn’t satisfy your sharing requirements. Whilst a few copy and pasters will also use the browsers built in share sheet in similar situations. Similarly, on page button users will copy the url from the nav bar if they can’t find the on page buttons.


Whilst it’s tempting to say that this definitively shows a case for not using share buttons. One consideration to bear in mind is your audience. In this instance, the audience will definitely skew younger, and relatively technologically adept. Your audience may have to cater for a wider cross-section of user abilities. For instance, a visible call to action will be more useful for a member of the older generation who have much lower technical abilities and social share buttons may prove more effective here.

Another consideration to bear in mind, is that these buttons may play a role as a visual reminder to users to share your content. So if you are considering removing your social share buttons, bear in mind that you may not have anything on your page which is actively encouraging users to share your content.

Anyways, that’s an interesting, yet statistically insignificant, result from a social and a UX perspective. One to bear in mind though.

This joint was penned by @elmarko