The Best Social Integration Plugins For WordPress Reviewed

There are over 350 WordPress plugins tagged “Share” in the WordPress plugin directory. But most of them, let’s be honest, fall short, with the exception of a handful of excellent winners.

I’d say there are three facets to social integration: Engagement, Self Promotion, and Viral Value. Whilst you can force none of these, there are definitely great tools out there to make it as easy as possible for you and your readers to make noise about your site on social networks.

Without further ado, I present to you the mighty five of WordPress social integration.

Social by Mailchimp

Compliments of MailChimp

The guys over at Mailchimp have made a considerable effort into bringing Twitter and Facebook to your WordPress website.

Social handles all three aspects of social engagement and nothing else. I really like this plugin.

Engaging The User

Social allows your readers to log in via a preferred social network and comment on the blog under that identity. Why is this good? People are comfortable with their Twitter and Facebook profiles, and don’t necessarily feel like filling out a form. It also captures their information, which if you’re a power user can be vital. Every logged in Twitter user gets added to your database and is also given the opportunity to tweet their comment!

Comments from your Facebook and Twitter profile automatically get pulled in amongst your regular WordPress comments.

Giving Your Content Viral Value

Social brings yet another commenting system to the table, which is a mashup of tweets, Facebook comments and of course WordPress comments. Whilst you may roll your eyes at someone reinventing the wheel again, it’s not all bad news. Tweets stay on Twitter, Facebook comments stay on Facebook and it all gets brought into a beautiful feed of social buzz. It also allows you to filter the “social buzz” between networks by seeing who has tweeted and who has Facebooked about your content.

Social makes broadcasting to your networks as easy as pie.

Promoting Your Content

When you publish a post, you have the option to “broadcast” the post to Twitter and Facebook- if they are your cup of tea. Quite simply, you link up a Twitter/Facebook account in the settings, and Social will automatically post to your accounts for you. Using various handles (i.e. {title} to show the title), you can even determine the structure of the post. It’s no frills, and just works.

Score: 9/10

It’s simple, does the trick, doesn’t do more than you want it to and is easy to use. For social integration, this is really your one stop shop for everything except fancy share buttons. The way Social gets your readers to do the sharing for you via their own vanity (having their profiles all over the web) is ingenious.

AddThis

AddThis is an excellent plugin for getting users to share your content in a very unobtrusive way. With the ability to share to over 300 services, this is certainly a catch all if you’re after a “share this post” plugin. It automatically hooks into the_content(), and adds the button to the top and bottom of the post.

The cool part about AddThis, though, is that it provides analytics so you can track your content being shared across networks, and gives you detailed reports on your post’s viral value. Google Analytics for social! Sweet!

Super lovely analytics for tracking your social engagement!

If you so wish, you can even do a custom implementation using the AddThis library. This involves downloading the Javascript Library, and enables you to place and theme your Share buttons wherever and however you want. Not to mention the Analytics for the Javascript version are much more involved!

Score: 9/10

AddThis has a clear purpose — to enable readers to share your content as easily as possible. And in tackling that challenge, they do a stellar job at providing a simple way to share to over 300 services, which is mighty impressive if you ask me! The detailed analytics are a cool way to watch your content go viral. If you use the Javascript version (not WordPress plugin) there’s a whole lot more cool stuff you can do — custom Hello Bars, trending content, and follow buttons.

Sharebar

Sharebar is a sweet plugin for those who like drop and go. It’s entirely responsive, and highly customizable without giving you too much to think about, or control.

Probably the coolest feature of Sharebar is its ability to collapse from a vertical bar that can follow your readers down the page, to a horizontal bar that sits under the title of your post when the viewport is less than 1000px wide. That means for those out there who have (awesome) responsive themes, this plugin is a real asset.

The fact that it follows the reader down the page can either been seen as ingenious or annoying. Personally, I think Social Integration is all about coverage, and how many people share your s**t so to speak. Sharebar does a great job of giving your readers every opportunity they can to post your content to their social networks. In fact, you can set it up so there is always a share button visible, which is pretty powerful. All it takes is a single click and hundreds, even thousands of people, are exposed to your site.

You can also insert the Sharebar where you wish using the helper functions supplied, i.e. horizontal_scrollbar() can go under your meta information or at the bottom of your post. I love being able to customize every part of my site through code, so this feature I believe is there to make the developers happy. And really, it’s not a tough thing to incorporate in a plugin! You can even put in specific buttons by using the sharebar_button() function. Another invaluable tool!

Score: 8/10

Despite its simplicity, this is a cool plugin. It’s a plugin for the masses that is very easy to get set up and running. The fact that it follows a reader as they scrolls is cool. It could look a little prettier (as it stands out obviously as a plugin), but that’s the designer in me getting frustrated! You can hack the plugin CSS, but I hate touching updatable files. As with anything, Analytics would be nice. The counters are some form of feedback I guess. Responsitivity is invaluable!

Shareaholic

SexyBookmarks — erm “Shareaholic” had to make the list! In the past, it was called SexyBookmarks and I believe that was a very well fitted name. Plain and simple, it gave you sexy share buttons, complete with shadows, popup CSS stuff and… that’s about it.

Nowadays it has a couple of extra features. It does have analytics! Which is nice, but I much prefer the analytics on AddThis. A “top bar” has been added (a la Hellobars) to share your site, and a related content widget. Not to mention telling your readers that “Sharing is Sexy!”

Score: 7/10

For a drop and go plugin, this is great. It looks good, functions well, has a relatively large amount of services you can share to and just works. That’s about it though. I’d love to see some sort of SexyFollowMe addition.

Jetpack

Jetpack by Automattic has received somewhat controversial criticism. I reviewed it recently, and I quite like it. Some love it, some hate its reliance on the WordPress.com servers. Love it or hate it, a couple of the free modules will get you on your way to sharing and publicizing your content.

Jetpack Comments that work the same as Social Comments

That said, it pretty much works in the same way that Social by Mailchimp does, but less. It’s nice to have an “official” plugin that tackles a common problem, but I’ve heard of many people having troubles with consistent connections, issues with connectivity to the “mothership” i.e. Automattic’s servers.

The other thing that is a bit of a pain, is that you have to activate three modules (Jetpack Comments, Publicize and Sharing) to get all the functionality that Social offers you.

Similar to Social, you can post your content right from the publish post page to a number of sites. It’s actually got a lot more variety than Social, having the ability to post to Yahoo! and LinkedIn as well.

The share functionality is similar to Shareaholic, albeit not as sexy or as many services.

Score: 7/10

I was torn between 7 and 8, because it’s a really nice plugin. The issue is it can rely on Automattic’s servers at times, you need the whole Jetpack suite (unnecessary) and cannot have them as standalone plugins. If they were standalone, I’d rate them.

So which do I use?

It’s up to you in the end. All five of these plugins do a great job at adding social functionality to your website. If you want to track viral value, AddThis is fantastic for all the stats it gives you. Social by MailChimp is my favourite for its simplicity and functionality. If you use Jetpack already, it would be silly to not use their social plugins. Sharebar and Shareaholic are two good solutions for those that like drop and go.

I’d choose Social though! What about you?

Comments (8)

  1. Very good reviews! Within the “drop&go” easy plugins category I’d like to suggest my own Really Simple Facebook Twitter Share Buttons, which is also full WPMU compatible.

  2. Social by Mailchimp is or should I say “was” a great plugin. But the folks over at Twitter have stopped supporting @anywhere. So, hopefully I am overreacting and there is a suitable solution somewhere. But I haven’t found it yet.

  3. Thank you Harley, for two great articles; this one and http://wpmu.org/how-to-build-your-own-wordpress-contact-form-and-why/.

    I have been looking for just the right plugin for this and I’m hoping that “Social” works for my needs.

    Users do appreciate the ease of signing in and posting comments with Facebook and Twitter (I do too!) as it retains a certain flow that doesn’t interrupt ones browsing/reading too much. I believe that this creates a more interactive website that visitors and customers will be happier to use – and, the added exposure doesn’t hurt either! =)

  4. I have been searching for right plugins for my WP website and I love Shareaholic for the blogs page. I will be checking out the rest soon that you have mentioned here. You should also check out the GroupDocs viewer plugin for WP as well. I have found it quite useful for my blog as I can embed my PDFs so that visitors can view and download those directly. You can check out the details here:

    http://groupdocs.com/blog/groupdocs-viewer/archive/2012/07/24/announcing-groupdocs-viewer-plugin-for-wordpress.html

  5. Great article. I actually really like the hovering share bar and share links at the bottom of the post that you use. Do you use a specific plug-in for this?

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