If you have a website, there’s a good chance you also have social media. And you might be wondering if you should include social media into your site in some way, and the answer is YES! But maybe not in the way you think.

One thing many people want to do immediately is add social media feeds to their site. This means pulling in the content that is available on social media right into the site. Looks something like this for Twitter:

But you can pull in feeds from Facebook, Instagram, etc. as well. But there is a bigger question.

Should you add social media feeds to your website?

And for that, more often than not, I would say NO. Surprised? Let me explain. There are a few reasons why I think social media feeds should not be added to your site, and one exception to the rule.

Site Speed: Every time you add a feed to your site, your site has to connect to that social media network and load what’s on that platform. And that is going to slow the loading of your page. Adding multiple social platform feeds is going to slow your page down even more.

User Experience: In general, a website visitor is not coming to your website because they want to see what you posted on Twitter. They are coming to your website to see what’s on your website. If your audience is on Twitter and they want to see what you wrote on Twitter, they’ll go there. Or Facebook, etc.

Distraction: When you put your social media feed on your website, it can be a distraction from the content that’s on your website. In fact, they could see what you’ve posted, then follow the link to see more of your posts and wind up over on Facebook instead of buying your product or contacting you.

The main rule for any single thing you put on a website should be: does it drive my audience into the action I want? If the goal of your website is to drive traffic to buy your product, call you, or fill out your website form, is the social media going to help you in that endeavor?

But the social media feeds make my site look updated!

There are two sides to this coin. The feeds may make your site look updated if you are active on social media. OR… they can make it look like you are out of business if you are neglecting social media. And social media often gets neglected when business owners get really busy running and managing their business. (Don’t ask me how I know…)


So how should you incorporate social media?

What I typically recommend instead of pulling in the feed, is to add social media links in your site, that link your user to your profiles if that’s something they are interested in. Most people will know what to do when they see those icons and can click through if they want to follow you.

Adding Social Media Icons Best Practices

Would you believe there are right and wrong ways to do this? Of course there are.

Where: First, when adding social media icons, add them in the header or footer so they are on every page of your site. That way, it doesn’t matter where on the site they are, they can get to your social media links. Whether they are at the top or the bottom is up to you. If it’s really important to drive traffic to social media, then add it to the top. If it’s less important, put it at the bottom.

Color: It used to be that it was important to keep the social media icons in their branded color palette, so that they were obvious and clear. This day and age, that’s no longer the case. You can color your icons to match your website. Like this:

Should they open in a new page: I’m going to get some pushback on this, but I vote no. “But I don’t want people to leave my site!” Well, then don’t link to websites that go off site. 🙂 Seriously, opening links in a new tab or page is bad for accessibility, because it can be difficult for those with with low vision or using a screen reader, and they can’t easily go “back” to return to the last page.

What about floating social media icons?

You know what I mean, the ones that float on the page, maybe off to the right, and follow you as you look through the site. I don’t like them, and I’ll give you an example. I was on my phone, searching for something. I saw in the search results an excerpt that looked like what I wanted. I clicked through, and there was this floating social media on the page that ended up right on top of the content. I couldn’t move it out of the way. If I scrolled it scrolled with me. It basically was intrusive and blocked me from seeing what I wanted to see. So I left the site and moved on to another search result. Which is not what you want people to do.

It’s distracting, and unless your #1 goal is to drive someone to social media, then I wouldn’t put floating social icons. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My exception to the rule when it comes to social media feeds

My exception to this rule is Instagram, when used appropriately AND when your Instagram account is something that you keep frequently updated. Because it’s all photos, you can incorporate the feed and have updated photos on your site regularly. Here’s an example.

This is a great opportunity for people who work in photo heavy industries to easily keep their site looking fresh while on the go. Hair stylists, remodelers, restaurants, stores, etc. If you are posting to Instagram regularly, you can embed this into your site and it looks great.

To embed Instagram into your site, I recommend a plugin called Smash Balloon. It’s fairly easy to set up and configure, the basic level is free, and has a few different options for presentation. More if you upgrade to the paid version. (I’ve never paid for it, I think the free version is fine.)


What about social sharing?

Ah, so you want people to share your content? Good idea! We all want that. It drives more traffic back to your site and it gives you some link juice. Social sharing icons for your content make it easy for people to share your content. However, let’s add some context to that argument.

Studies have shown that less than 1% of users will click a sharing button when they are looking at your content on their phone. Depending on your website traffic, that’s actually very few people. And additionally, if people really like your content enough to share it, they’ll do it without the need for a sharing button.

Desktop users are much more likely to use the sharing buttons, although still probably not as high as you think. I’ve seen numbers that they are about twice as likely to click on your social share icons. Which still isn’t very much.

At this point, you may be asking, but why not include them? What’s it hurting? Well, it could be affecting your page speed and page speed is a ranking factor when it comes to SEO, and it hurts your user experience. If that matters to you, then you should consider whether it’s worthwhile to include those sharing buttons. If you get millions of visitors every month, then that 0.3-0.6% of clicks may be worthwhile. For most of us, it probably isn’t.

Bottom line: Most users prefer to share their own way rather than using the share buttons.

If you want to add social media sharing buttons to your posts, I do have a few recommendations:

  • Don’t put them on every single page of your site, instead add them to your blog posts or articles, since those are more likely to be shared. I recommend adding them to the bottom so people can read the article before sharing.
  • There are a number of options for social sharing plugins. I like AddtoAny. It’s free in the WordPress repository and pretty easy to set up. Just make sure to check the configuration because the default settings may be too much.
  • Avoid floating social buttons!
  • And consider whether you want them on mobile at all, where Internet is typically slower and users are much much less likely to click them.

Where should you make sure not to forget to include your social media?

Email Newsletters: Your email newsletter is a great place to add links to your social media. Add icons or links to the bottom. In fact, you could even add a little text to tell people why they might like to follow you.

Order Confirmation Emails: Do you sell products? If so, you probably have an order confirmation email that your user gets. This is a great opportunity to put your social media links in front of an actual customer. Again, you can even include reasons why they should follow you. Do you offer coupons, specials, or news?

Form Submission Confirmation: If someone is on your website and they fill out your form, what happens? I’ve written about this here, but that thank you page is a great place to direct people to social media. They’ve already completed the desired action, so why not give them other ways to keep up?

Should you add social media icons to your email signature?

I recommend against this. It’s distracting, especially if you have a long back and forth conversation. It usually adds attachments to your email, which can be confusing if someone is looking for a different attachment and they only see your icons. Instead, just link to your website using a text link.

Got questions about social media? Follow us on social media and ask!

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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