Displaying Social Proof – What the Marketing Experts Use

One of the top things that helps increase a visitor’s confidence in your website, particularly if it is a blog, is evidence of social proof. This evidence comes in the form of displaying social engagement numbers including your subscribers, followers, fans, tweets, likes, and other social shares. While perusing the AdAge Power 150, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the top marketing blogs were proving their social clout. Here are the common tools, apps, widgets, buttons, and platforms the experts use to demonstrate social proof.

Subscribers, Followers, and Fans

Want to show people how many loyal fans you have? Here are the top ways to do so!

Feedburner Chicklet

I had honestly thought these had gone out of style due to the inconsistencies of Feedburner’s data, as there are still times when my subscribers drop by 2,000+ and then restore themselves a day later. Nonetheless, the Feedburner chicklet (or the count from it at least) is used on 14 out of 50 sites analyzed with counts ranging from 3,637 to a whopping 158,000.

feedburner counter

To get your own Feedburner counter, you will need to have your feed burned with Feedburner if you haven’t already. This is a fairly easy process which involves pasting your site’s base RSS feed into Feedburner, and then answering a few questions about what you would like to track. Then you just go to your Publicize tab > FeedCount, select the chicklet design you like best, and save it as an active service. Then copy and paste the HTML given or use the TypePad / Blogger widgets that are available.

If you’re not a fan of the chicklet and would rather get into some nicer design with advanced coding, then be sure to check out how to display Feedburner subscriber count in text. This will allow you to integrate it with your design a little more fluidly assuming your site is PHP based.

Twitter Follow Button

Next up on the social proof list is the official Twitter Follow Button. This allows you to add a button that visitors can click on which will display the following.

twitter follow button

To get this on your website, simply visit the Twitter resources page for the Follow Button and customize it to suite your needs. You can also turn off the follower count if you choose and just use the functionality to get more followers.

Facebook Like Box

Last but not least is the Facebook Like Box. This allows you to display your current number of fans along with an easy to click Like button so people can become a fan of your page instantly, right from your website.

facebook like box

To get this box for your website, visit the Facebook Developer’s Like Box page to customize the coding for your website. You can choose to show your latest stream of fan page updates, faces of the people who like your page, or opt out and just show your page name, profile picture, and the Like button.

Tweets, Likes, and Shares

If you’ve ever questioned whether you should have social sharing buttons on your blog, here’s something that might convince you. Only two blogs in the top 50 have no social sharing buttons on their individual posts! You don’t want to be “that” blog – make social sharing simple AND display your social proof with the following official social sharing buttons.

Twitter Tweet Button

33 of the top 50 have the Official Twitter button (the ones who do not typically have Tweetmeme or one or a simple Twitter icon). You will probably prefer the official button as it usually has the highest counts of tweets to your posts. It also will suggest that people follow you after they have tweeted your posts – that is probably my favorite feature of all!

official twitter retweet button

To get this button, you will need to visit the Twitter resources page for the Tweet Button and customize your button’s sizing, Twitter handle to be mentioned in the tweet, and even an additional Twitter handle to be suggested to people who tweet your posts.

If you’re installing this button in your WordPress template, you will need to modify the code to pull the URL, count, and Title from the permalink which looks a little something like this:


<script src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" type="text/javascript"></script><div> <a href="http://twitter.com/share" class="twitter-share-button" data-url="<?php the_permalink() ?>" data-counturl="<?php the_permalink() ?>" data-text="<?php the_title(); ?>" data-via="username" data-related="username">Tweet</a></div>

Note the bolded username that needs to be changed to your Twitter handle!

Facebook Like

44 of the top 50 blogs in the Power 150 have the Facebook Like button available on each of their posts, making it the most popular social sharing button of them all. The coding for the Like button varies as you can customize it to say Like or Recommend, and with some additional work (including creating a custom Facebook application for your website) can have it to also include a Send button which will let people send the post privately to their friends.

facebook like send button

To get the Facebook Like button for your pages, you will need to visit the Facebook Developer’s Like Button page to customize the code just as you want it (width, verbiage, color scheme, font, etc.). For WordPress users installing it in a template, you will need to change the URL it references in the code from a direct URL to the following:


<?php echo rawurlencode(get_permalink()); ?>

Be sure to test this one out – sometimes the coding can be tricky!

Facebook Share

The Facebook Share Button was the predecessor to the Facebook Like Button, and although the official code doesn’t exist on their Developer’s site anymore (it just redirects to the Like Button), you can still use it. The reason I like the Share Button over the Like Button is that it gives users the chance to edit the item they are sharing before they post it to their wall.

facebook share button

I’m sure that users appreciate that as well! To install the Facebook Share Button, simply add the following code where you want it to appear.


<a name="fb_share" type="button_count" href="http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php">Share</a><script src="http://static.ak.fbcdn.net/connect.php/js/FB.Share" type="text/javascript"></script>

No need to update it for special templates – this button will just share the URL it is placed upon regardless.

Google +1

Google’s answer to the Facebook Like Button is their own +1. When it first came out, anyone who cared about SEO jumped right into it, and now it is on over half of the top 50 blogs. The best part is that it now integrates with the Google+ network so you can share any post you +1 to your Google+ profile right from the post.

google plus one button sharing

To install this button on your blog, visit Google’s +1 webmasters page to customize the size of the chicklet and the width of the overall field – the smaller you make it, the less faces and text it will show about who has +1′d your page. Be sure to note that you have to install one part of the code where you want the button to display, and another part of the code in the HTML of your website between the <HEAD> tags.

LinkedIn

The LinkedIn Share Button is perfect if you want to get your content in front of a more professional audience. When a reader clicks to share your post, they will have the option to specify the thumbnail, edit the title or description, and add a comment. They can share it on their profile as well as with groups they belong to. In addition, if a post gets a lot of LinkedIn shares, it has the potential to be added to the LinkedIn homepage, on LinkedIn today, and even sent out to LinkedIn members via email. That is a huge amount of extra traffic that you don’t want to miss out on!

linkedin share button for publishers

To get this button, visit the LinkedIn for Publisher’s Share Button page and customize the code for a specific chicklet size. No additional code changes are needed to fit with any particular platform as it will share the page that the button is displayed upon.

StumbleUpon

Although it may not be the most popular compared to the above mentioned, the StumbleUpon badge definitely has its benefits as StumbleUpon often rivals the traffic of Facebook, if not eclipsing it as a referral source altogether.

toobbox.com stumbles

To get the StumbleUpon badge, you simply choose the size you want on the StumbleUpon badges page and it will generate the code for you to place on your site. No additional coding is needed for specific platforms as it will “stumble” the page it is located upon. Their page also gives additional tips on how to insert it into Blogger, Movable Type, TypePad, WordPress, and Feedburner’s FeedFlare.

Alternatives

If you’re not up to installing the above official social sharing buttons on your own, you have a few alternatives. WordPress users can install the popular Digg Digg plugin which allows you to choose from a variety of social sharing buttons for your blog posts.

digg digg wordpress plugin

You can also choose the location of your buttons including off to the left like the above example or under the header. I would suggest the latter, especially since mobile users will typically not see the floating buttons to the left (but if you have a mobile theme for your blog, that may not be an issue).

Other good alternatives that work on multiple platforms include AddtoAny, Share This, and AddThis. Note that some will require some additional coding to work with features such as suggesting your Twitter handle to people who tweet your posts. If you’re ok living without that, these are quick and easy ways to install all the buttons you want.

Other Social Sharing Buttons

So aside from the official buttons, what other networks did the top marketing blogs include on their sites? Some blogs used the Tweetmeme button as an alternative to the Twitter Tweet Button (or in conjunction with it in different positions on the post). Then, using a variety of different icons and plugins, some blogs included Delicious, Digg, and Reddit sharing buttons. More often than not, these buttons were added just at the bottom of posts while the official sharing buttons were closer to the top.

How Do You Show Social Proof?

Now it’s your turn – how do you add social proof to your website? Do you think you should only do it if you already have great numbers? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.

  1. Right now, I’m only using: Twitter, Facebook Share, Google+ and LinkedIn Share.

    I had the others like Stumbleupon activated through social bar, but I’ve since removed that and moved my sharing icons to the bottom of my posts. I really just wanted a clean integration and nothing that got too much in the way of my content.

    For me, displaying the social interaction counts is important. It says that my audience is engaged with me – and that’s a good thing :-)

  2. very well explained and a great6 post again.

  3. Not only the marketing pros use social proof. Other “professionals” employ the same tactics. I wrote about this in my post “What a New York Prostitute can teach you about conversion –> http://www.conversionista.com/what-a-new-york-prostitute-can-teach-you-about-conversion/

    • A lot of people are using it Michael! I try to steer away from having a lot of plugins, but they’re certainly better than having no social sharing buttons at all.

  4. Well done, Kristi. I have been asking myself, “What’s that plugin used on Mashable called?”… now i know. :-) Thanks

  5. What I would really love to have is the Social Proof info that Just-Ask-Kim has on her blog BUT have the plugin pull the stats once every 24 hours. She made her static because having it pull them every time the page loads is not a good idea.

    • I think either AddThis will do the analytics. I just went static with mine for the load time issues – I’m not too obsessed with the stats beyond what the buttons show. :)

  6. I’m using the Sexy Bookmarks plugin for WordPress for readers to share on Twitter, like on Facebook, etc. The Sexy B plugin does not interfere with loading speed — my page load time is .6 seconds — which is not the case for other social sharing plugins. I wrote a post on the topic. Nice article, Kristi.

  7. I’m using Facebook Like and Send, Twitter, Google+1 and LinkedIn buttons to allow my readers to share my posts. On my blog’s sidebar I love to show the numbers of followers, readers (feedbrner data) and fans with custom icons and their numbers :)

  8. Great post. I think its also important to only display the social sharing buttons that perform best to enforce your social proof. If your Twitter and Facebook buttons have 20+ shares and Digg has 0 then there is no need for the Digg button.

    I built the Socialize WordPress plugin to assist with selectively displaying social sharing buttons in your posts for this reason.

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