The Right Social Sharing Widget for Your Website

It's rare to visit any website today and not be met with an array of social sharing widgets. These features enable site visitors to comment, tweet, like, bookmark and share interesting content from publishers' websites, amplifying the distribution of information and helping to generate Web traffic. The benefits of these widgets can be one sided, however.

When a user shares via a Facebook or Twitter widget, the publisher doesn't gain any helpful insight from the data it records. When Web tools, such as AddThis or ShareThis, are installed, publishers miss out on revenue. Many publishers are unaware of these benefits, but are available to them just the same.

Do you know what your users are sharing?

The Web has evolved from a search destination into a social environment. Nowadays, understanding social connections is a necessity when strategizing how and when to get closer to users. Publishers could potentially gain highly valuable insights by looking at what people share, who with, how often and in what context. This could help them better target their content and, in turn, boost their ad revenues. However, the problem many publishers face is in deciding which widget to use. Of websites featuring social widgets, Facebook widgets are present on 59.6 percent, Google+ on 40.7 percent and Twitter on 24 percent. These figures indicate that publishers understand the important relationship among personal connections, content and Web traffic. These widgets, however, don't provide much in the way of user-sharing data.

By offering analytical data, several social widgets have made a step toward a compromise with publishers. Two examples are the aforementioned AddThis and ShareThis, but they are only present on 19.4 percent and six percent of websites featuring widgets, respectively. Luckily, the appearance of "next generation" social widgets is increasing.

These next generation widgets offer deeper insight into user behavior by leveraging external insight (e.g. website visits before or after their visit).

Does your widget assist in natural SEO?

As search algorithms calculate social virality as a key indication of relevance, it's possible to use widgets to impact a brand's SEO. By increasing the social circulation of content, publishers will also drive SEO results. Additionally, Facebook and Google+ continue to fight for social dominance, so publishers need to be hyperaware of the importance of digital sharing within natural search and its influence on search rankings.

Can your widget make you revenue?

Using the right social sharing widget can increase the value of advertising inventory by providing new audience targeting data (for example, data management platforms can charge additional fees to advertisers or sell this rich data outright). However, now publishers can become their own data management suppliers, again boosting the publisher's revenue stream. Essentially the business model for widgets is changing - moving from prioritizing the provider to a neutral ground.

A problem both publishers and advertisers face is that despite networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, having incredibly broad reach, they are essentially closed environments; people are free to share in those networks, but once inside, content is rarely shared amongst a network of people across the open Web again. This prevents publishers and advertisers from fully understanding and, therefore, scaling their audiences, impeding their ability to tailor content and advertising. By choosing a social widget that gives insight into what their audience does, publishers and advertisers are able to side step the closed networks to some degree, deriving tangible benefits and keeping the open Web alive.

Are you using the right widget?

The majority of online publishers appreciate that the Internet has transformed from a search destination into a social environment, and are already providing site visitors with the opportunity to share their content across a variety of different outlets. However, what they're yet to appreciate is that with this fundamental change comes an opportunity for them to gain more value from social sharing. By choosing a widget that helps publishers harness the sharing phenomenon and all the insight into user behavior then can (and will) offer, they can get a share in the benefits and earn more from the content they're producing.

About the Author: Rebecca Watson is the VP of Business Development at RadiumOne.