Integrating Social Media With WordPress: The Ultimate Plugin Guide
Social media transformed the way that people share information online. For website owners, services such as Twitter and Facebook present an opportunity for their articles to reach hundreds or even thousands of people instantly.
Behind search engine traffic, I have found social media traffic to be the second biggest source of visitors to my blog. However, in order to get this traffic, you need to build up your social media presence and make it easy for social media users to share your articles with their friends and followers.
In this article, I would like to look at six different ways to integrate social media into your website: sharing buttons, follow buttons, comments, post broadcasting, content locking, and tracking.
For each method, I have detailed what I consider to be three of the best solutions for WordPress users. With so many great social media plugins available online, many quality social media solutions have unfortunately been excluded from my list. I have, however, made a point of mentioning alternative solutions wherever possible.
Note: The majority of plugins listed can be downloaded free from WordPress.org. The cost of premium plugin solutions are detailed in the description area.
Social Media Sharing
Social media buttons increase the odds of visitors sharing your articles with others. I recommend choosing a solution that complements your current website design.
Be aware that many social media sharing plugins slow down your website due to retrieving information from external servers. Therefore, it is prudent to test the speed of your website before and after installing any plugin using a service such as GTmetrix. This will give you an indication of how much load a particular plugin adds.
It is a tough call, however I believe that Share This has the best mix of features and usability. The service is used on a whopping 2.4 million websites and supports over 120 social media networks and services.
Three different button styles are available through the plugin. Also available is a floating bar, a share bar that is displayed at the top of your pages, and a minimal ShareThis button that hovers at the side of your pages. The ShareThis service provides analytical data on the number of shares your pages have too.
The sharing bar you see floating at the left hand side of this page is powered by Floating Social. Retailing at only $19, Floating Social is a mobile friendly floating sharing bar that supports Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Del.icio.us. Thankfully, you are not restricted to using these services as additional social media services can be added through the settings area.
Each button highlights the number of shares for that page, with the bar scrolling down and remaining in a fixed position at all times. The custom text that is displayed can be changed through the settings area; though I am sure many users will stick with “Sharing is Caring”. The plugin also allows you to change background colors, border colors, and the width and height of the share bar.
The placement of the bar can be adjusted through the settings area. You can place it at either size of your page and define how far from the top of the page it is displayed vertically and how far from your content it is displayed horizontally. Custom CSS can also be defined and there is an option to only display the share bar on certain areas of your website.
I recommend checking the plugin out if you want your social media sharing buttons to be displayed at all times.
If you are looking for a sharing solution that is less in your face, you may want to consider Social Sharing by Danny. This elegant sharing plugin supports Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
The plugin is super lightweight, adding only 600 bytes to your pages. 16×16 and 32×32 pixel icons can be displayed with each sharing link and a cool hover effect is displayed when a visitor hovers over a link. Sharing buttons can be inserted into your website automatically into posts, pages, and media. Alternatively, you can insert the buttons into your website using a shortcode or PHP function code.
When compared to other social media plugins, Social Sharing by Danny is quite light on features; however there is an option to append your Twitter username to all shares through Twitter.
Social Media Following
The more people that follow you on social media, the more you can influence others and push traffic towards your website. That is why it is important that you promote your social media accounts.
One of the best ways to grow your social media following is to link to your social media profiles in the sidebar of your blog or at the top of your website.
Social Icons Widget is a stylish widget plugin that supports 31 different social media services and networks. 16×16, 32×32, and 64×64 pixel icons, can be displayed with text. You can also use custom icons or remove icons altogether. Titles and labels can also be displayed.
It’s a simple plugin, but it looks beautiful and should integrate with any website design.
Helios Solutions Social Media Buttons
displays links to your social media profiles on a discrete floating bar at the left or right hand side of your pages. Ten social media services are supported by the plugin and there are fields for promoting your website URL and email address too.
Through the settings area, you can adjust the distance from the top of the page. You can also change the hover effect for links and disable the plugin for mobile devices.
Another floating social media follow plugin to consider is Floating Social Media Icon. It comes with over 20 different styles of icons and features multiple icon sizes.
Where Social Media Widget really excels as a plugin is its support for dozens of social media services. It features five different icon packs and allows you to insert icons at a size of 16×16, 24×24, 32×32, or 64×64 pixels. There are also four types of animations for icons.
The nofollow attribute can be assigned to links and you can set profile links to open up in new tabs. You can also specify the alignment of your buttons.
For such a simple plugin, Social Media Widget offers a lot of useful customization options.
Social Media Comments
The standard WordPress comment form asks for a visitor’s name, email address, and website. Every time someone leaves a comment on your website, they need to enter this information.
Internet users who use social media services actively tend to stay logged in to them at all times. Therefore, by allowing your visitors to log in through their preferred social media service, you can make the process of publishing a comment quicker and easier. This can encourage more comments.
Livefyre and Disqus remain the most popular external commenting solutions online. It is hard to separate these services as they both offer many great features and are both used by many high traffic websites.
These services allow visitors to sign in using a range of social media services. They are both mobile friendly and offer many community features such as threaded discussions, likes, sorting by new, old, and top comments, and more. In addition to social media services, Livefyre and Disqus also offer website owners many useful moderation tools to help you tackle spam.
Comments are synced between their database and yours to ensure that your website always has an up to date version of comments. This means that no comments will ever be lost, despite being published on an external service. This is in contrast to comments published on a social media service such as Facebook or Google+. As yet, there is no way to sync comments from those services back to a WordPress database.
The Jetpack plugin is packed full of useful modules. One of the best modules on offer is Jetpack Comments. It replaces your default WordPress comment form with an enhanced form that has social media support.
In addition to supporting the existing name, email, and website fields, the new enhanced form allows visitors to login and publish comments by signing into their WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.
Jetpack Comments also allows commenters to be notified of new comments to your posts. There is an option for visitors to get email updates of your blog posts too. All in all, Jetpack Comments is a great solution that is both practical and fast loading.
Social Comments is easily the most versatile comment solution in my list. In addition to the standard WordPress comment form, the plugin allows visitors to publish comments using Disqus, Google+, or Facebook (Note that separate solutions for Google+ and Facebook are also available in the WordPress plugin directory).
The plugin allows you to display all comments on one page or split them up into different tabs. The number of comments published with each comment method can also be displayed. Fourteen different styles of social media icons are also available for the headings of each comment section.
The beauty of Social Comments is that it offers so many different comment methods to visitors. This allows them to publish comments using their favorite method. The only downside to this is that instead of having a single discussion, the comment area is effectively divided into four different parts. Sadly, that is the price you need to pay for offering visitors multiple comment methods.
Social Media Post Broadcasting
When you publish new articles on your blog, you want to inform all of your social media followers. If you only publish articles a few times per month, it may be in your interests to publish updates to your social media accounts manually. This allows you to customize each message for each social media service. For example, you could make your announcement post on Facebook much longer than on Twitter.
If you publish articles every day, it is not always practical to update multiple social media accounts manually as there are many great external services that can do this by checking your RSS feed regularly. Good examples of this include HootSuite, Dlvr.it, and If This Then That.
They are all reliable services, however in this list I wanted to solutions that were designed with WordPress in mind :)
I am currently using the Jetpack Publicize module to automatically send updates of my new blog posts to my followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. The module can also be used to send updates to Tumblr and Path.
The module integrates directly into your post editor. Any social media service you connect to in the settings area will be automatically selected to be updated after a blog post is published. If you wish, you can stop an article from being publicized on a particular social media service.
The message that is sent to your followers can be customized too. Unfortunately, you cannot customize this message for each social media service. Therefore, the same message will be posted on all of your social media networks. This is a limitation that is inherent in most social media broadcasting solutions.
If you are looking to send post notifications to a large number of social media services and platforms, you should consider using NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster. It currently supports a whopping 27 services and they are planning on adding more.
The plugin allows you to send an update to social media services as soon as an article is published. Alternatively, you can reduce posting speed to a defined number of days, hours, and minutes (which is useful for blogs with high posting frequencies). It also allows you to specify which user groups can make broadcasts to social media services and which user groups can edit the message.
Categories can also be excluded from broadcasts and there are a number of URL shorteners available too. NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster is not as user friendly as other broadcasting solutions; however it one of the most versatile.
Developed by WordPress veteran Alex King and the email marketing service MailChimp, Social is a feature packed social media WordPress plugin that can broadcast your blog posts to Facebook and Twitter.
It is one of the few broadcast solutions that also supports broadcasts of pages, though functionality is limited to only two social media services. The plugin has not been updated since December 2013, though a colleague of mine continues to use the plugin every day to broadcast posts from his WordPress website (and it seemed to work fine during my test too).
Social is also a social media comment solution. It can pull in retweets, replies, likes, and comments, from Facebook and Twitter. These will then be published in your comment area as comments. Visitors can even respond to messages that have been pulled from Facebook and Twitter.
Content lockers allow you to hide premium content to visitors. In order to see the content, visitors have to share your page on a social media service such as Facebook or Twitter.
It is a great way of increasing traffic to long tutorials and to downloadable files such as eBooks. Be sure to use it sparingly as if you lock every page on your website, you will drive away visitors.
Our content locker, Pay with a Like, allows visitors to pay for content with a share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.
By using the integrated pay with a like button, you can lock part of a page or all of a page. The amount of content that is displayed in an excerpt when the content is locked can also be specified.
Pay with a Like has some great features, such as the ability to automatically unlock content to those who have already liked your Facebook page. The plugin also has a statistics area that displays graphs about the number of shares. The most liked pages are also highlighted.
wpLike2Get is a content locker that supports Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. All you have to do is protect the content you want to lock using a shortcode. Uploaded files, such as zip files and songs, can be locked directly through the WordPress uploader.
The plugin also offers support for Google Analytics to help you track what pages are being unlocked and shared.
OnePress Social Locker is a stylish content locking solution that allows visitors to unlock content with a tweet, like, or +1.
Anything placed inside a social locker shortcode will be hidden from visitors. Anti-cheating functionality can be enabled in the settings area and you can choose to make content visible after a defined number of seconds. The plugin also shows you the number of shares on your website between a specified date range.
A pro version of the plugin is available for $24. It comes with three extra themes, seven additional social buttons, and another eight advanced options.
Social Media Tracking
Tracking the performance of your articles on social media helps you to see what pages are being shared the most. This information can help you plan out future blog posts and pages.
One plugin that just missed my top three list of social media tracking plugins is Social Stats Panel. You may want to check that out too as it produces some interesting graphs about your social media shares.
Social Metrics is a WordPress plugin that allows you to track the social media performance of both posts and pages., This is a big selling point as other solutions do not allow you to see posts and pages separately. Six major social media services are supported.
I love the fact that statistics can be filtered by category and by date. It really helps you analyze data and see how articles are performing on social media.
The plugin has not been updated since the start of 2013, however it still functions correctly. The only real indication of it not being actively updated is its support for the Digg network.
A pro version of the plugin is available from $27. It supports additional social media services and the ability to export data in Excel format. It also offers more filtering options.
Social Metrics Tracker highlights what blog posts have been shared the most on your website. You can filter posts by time: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and anytime.
The plugin supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Google+. The total number of shares is highlighted and marked as a “Social Score”. The total number of comments is also displayed. I think this is a nice addition as it helps you easily see which posts have been generating the most discussions.
One of the latest social media tracking solutions to be released is Easy Social Metrics Pro. Retailing at $28, the plugin tracks 12 major social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Reddit, ManageWP.org, Buffer, Xing, Vkontakte, and Odnoklassniki. Each network can be enabled and disabled through the plugin configuration page (note that by default, Xing, Vkontakte, and Odnoklassniki, are disabled).
It features a beautiful dashboard that shows graphs of shares over a specified period of time. There are also three separate reports: detailed period report, content report, and detailed content report. I found these reports to be very useful as they highlight the articles with the most shares in each network.
The plugin supports all post types on your website, whether it be posts, pages, downloads, or portfolio. Reports can be filtered by both time and by post type. This is useful for analyzing each area of your website in more detail.
Social media altered the landscape of the internet. It changed the way people get updates from their favorite websites and it changed how people share content with their friends. In order to tap into this social media traffic, you need to integrate social media directly into your website. That is why social media WordPress plugins are so important to bloggers and website owners.
I hope you have found this list of social media plugins useful. As I noted at the start of this article, by listing only three WordPress plugins for each function, I have inevitably left out a lot of great plugins. Therefore, I encourage you to post a comment below and share the social media plugins you use on your WordPress website.