A conversation with a colleague managing corporate news and events content for the University was telling me that when the whole cookies-privacy thing came along a couple of years ago or so, they decided the simplest thing to do was to get rid of the social sharing buttons they'd been using. The third party widget they used was planting privacy-invasive cookies and rather than implement a new cookie-free solution my office had created, they decided to do without.
Why? Basically because next to no one was sharing pages covering University news and events.
But if we were to decide not to provide such functionality in the new CMS there probably would be an outcry across some quarters of our web publishing community.
So I began thinking back to things on the topic I've read in the past.
The one freshest in memory was a blog post from Gov.uk earlier this year in which they outlined an experiment they undertook around social sharing buttons. The results are interesting in that the things that got shared most aren't perhaps what you might expect. But the key thing is that next to no one was sharing.
GOV.UK social sharing buttons: the first 10 weeks (February 2014)
And (interaction designer and author) Luke Wrobleski recently asked a very similar question:
"What percentage of page views click on the Twitter or Facebook share buttons on Web pages?"
He got a load of responses from his readership. Not particularly scientific, by his own admission, but the average was 0.25% across the 18M+ page views people referenced. The people who provided data represented a range of organisations, and the numbers are similar to both what Gov.uk released and what my colleague mentioned to me anecdotally.
I also recalled a great article from Paul Boag a couple of years back - a real call to action, to think hard about social media and to start doing in properly. Or to put it in Paul's words - to make your website and social media play nice together. Social media isn't there to just drive traffic to your website - if, indeed, it actually achieves that at all.
"A few sharing icons and your latest tweets is not enough to integrate social media with your website."It's time for your site to play nicely with social media - Paul Boag's blog post
And he also gave a presentation along very similar lines:
So how about you? What if social share buttons disappeared overnight? Would you care? As a website visitor? As a web publisher?