I could just leave this post here, and it’d be enough for my take on the news that Google+ (yeah, remember that?) is removing share counts from its sharing button.
Much like Twitter did a couple of years back, Google’s platform will no longer show how many times your post or article has been shared on its network.
And, as expected, content creators are making all sorts of noise about this loss. Which is understandable, given they make money from a social sharing plugin, amongst other things.
But, in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?
Social Proof, or Social Proof is in the Pudding?
At the start of last year, I removed social sharing buttons from my blog altogether after a couple of experiments around their value, both perceived and real.
My take was (and remains) they’re simply an interruptive part of the content consumption for both reader and post author.
The experiment (for my blog, at least) bore that belief out, with more shares happening as a result of there being no share buttons – go figure!
Now, the argument from many social sharing button fans is that it makes it easier to get shares, thereby increasing your share count, thereby making your posts seem more popular.
This is called “social proof” – by having large numbers of shares, visitors to your site will believe you’re more influential than other bloggers, and will therefore share your content versus similar content elsewhere.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Oh noes, Google+ is removing counts from its sharing button. It’s a disaster! /endsarcasm” quote=”Social proof via social sharing numbers – valid authority metric, or fuzzy fluff?”]
And, to a degree, that can be true. But is that adding to your goals?
- Does a thousand shares of your latest post mean you have a thousand new subscribers, or a thousand new customers for your online store?
- Are the shares going out to the right audience when being shared?
- Are the shares delivering on the message when a visitor comes to your site from it?
These are just three simple examples, but let’s break then down a little further.
Shares versus results
So let’s say your post gets a thousand shares across various networks. How does that impact your content goals? Are you just raising awareness, or is there a strategy behind the shares?
Numbers of shares are all good, but if all that’s happening is your post getting more numbers on your sharing buttons, are these numbers actually providing any value?
Especially when social media users are more likely to share a link than click on it.
Is it the right audience?
So your reader/visitor shared on Twitter, or Facebook, or Google+. Great – more eyeballs for your content, right? Or is it?
Who are the followers of your sharer? Because that’s what really matters – not the amount of shares, but the relevance of that share to new eyeballs.
Although not 100% definitive, this graphic shows how little online content can mean in the grand scheme of things when it comes to what’s shared on social media (using the U.S. as an example).
This ties back to relevance to the visitor – if your sharer is primarily followed by non-buyers of your product, or non-readers of your topics, I don’t care how many times that post is shared, it’s probably not going to mean much in the grand scheme of things.
Does your site deliver?
Most social media sharing is done via mobile now, given the mobile-first nature of the various networks, and their individual apps.
So let’s say a share goes out via a desktop visitor, and is clicked on by a mobile reader – except your site still isn’t set up for mobile visitors (yes, this still happens in 2017!).
Your visitor is going to bounce from the site pretty much immediately, and you’ve lost a potential prospect – but, hey, that sharing count looks great, right?
The Argument Against Share Counts
As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are a lot of people who put social share counts into a bracket of value.
And, for some, maybe that number beside the sharing button validates their content, and they offer examples of why it’s important – and that’s fine.
But, for me at least, the arguments don’t completely hold up.
Social share counts attract advertisers
Maybe they do – initially. But if your analytics don’t back up the numbers, you can bet the advertiser(s) will look elsewhere.
After all, what do you think is more attractive to an advertiser looking for a blog partner – 1,000 shares with 12 visits, or 1,000 visits with no share numbers in site?
Fewer shares can lead to less interaction
Again, maybe, maybe not. As my own experiment showed, having no sharing buttons didn’t negatively impact my blog or the goals I have for it, including interaction.
Besides, what type of interaction are you looking for?
There are many forms of interaction, and you don’t need share counts to encourage that.
Share Counts versus Content Goals
Look, I get it – social sharing is a success metric for some, and that’s all good. If that’s part of your content goals, knock yourself out.
But by focusing on the share numbers versus what’s happening behind these numbers (many of which can be inflated any way), you get sucked into creating content to attract shares, as opposed to content to meet goals.
And that type of content will never attract the kind of quality visitors you want, regardless of how many times it’s shared.
So, stop worrying about share counts. Start concentrating on what really matters, then work out how to get there.
Everything else is just a distraction.