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Essential Social Sharing Tools for Websites

Posted on 2.09.2011

Social media has become a standard in Web business and that includes design and development. In the past, providing eye-catching and functional social profile links and sharing options was a cumbersome process; involving hard-coding and scouring the Web for usable images.

Not anymore. Amateur bloggers (and sophisticated ones, too) can deploy any number of widgets with one click. Many of the social widgets also offer developers the ability to modify and implement the tools and offer APIs.

Enabling social sharing and providing links to various social touch points is not optional - today's online business environment demands it. Fortunately there are tools to make it easy. Below are just a few.*

AddThis is one of the most recognizable and popular social widgets available. According to the website, AddThis is featured on more than 7 million domains. The advantage of that, is that users have been exposed to the widget repeatedly, meaning most are likely quite familiar, and therefore adept, at using it. AddThis also offers some pretty insightful analytics (which can be emailed to you), including search and referrers, social mentions and audience interests. There are plenty of display options with AddThis, so look around the site. ShareThis is similar.

Share and Follow (pictured, at left) is a hot item in the blogging world. Call it a social sticky widget or floating sidebar widget, it allows users one-click access to your social profiles and sits in a fixed position; so that even when a user scrolls down or up, the widget stays on the side of the page - allowing for users to share whenever it strikes their fancy. Although constantly present, it's attractive and relatively small, so it does not feel intrusive. It also enables users to share content. Add in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp ... just about anything. The WordPress plugin supports WP e-Commerce, so product pages can be shared and 'liked.' There are several choices when it comes to "follow me" widgets but this one is one of the most popular, and one of the best. Social Slider is similar.

Sexy Bookmarks (pictured, at right) is another sharing tool but, unlike AddThis, it comes in a slick package. You might even call it "sexy." Just about every necessary social network is supported, and RSS. It's whimsical design and hover-over effects are a good option for bloggers with a bit of lighter atmosphere, perhaps not so great for business publishers. Sexy Bookmarks is very easy to install for WordPress, Blogger and Joomla.

*Many plugins can be unstable, or you might need support. Be sure to read user reviews about these tools before using them, and look for an active community.

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