The Best Location to Place Share Buttons vs. Follow Buttons

By April 18, 2018

It’s easy to slap some share and follow buttons on your website and call it a day, but where you place those buttons matters. If your share and follow buttons are easily overlooked, you could be missing out on hundreds to thousands of shares and new followers. This tutorial will walk you through the steps to strategic share and follow button placement.

Difference between Share and Follow

First, you need to know the difference between Share and Follow. Share buttons make it easy for readers to share your content with their networks on their social media accounts. These buttons automatically generate a post with the link to a specific article or web page on the user’s connected social media profile. From there, the user can click “post” to publish the update in his/her news feed and share it with his/her own followers or connections.

Follow buttons, on the other hand, let readers easily follow your social media profiles. These buttons send readers to your social media profile, where they can click “follow” or “like” to keep up with all your future updates.

No matter where you decide to place your share buttons, your follow buttons should be in a different location. Have you ever clicked a social media button on a web page to follow a brand, only to discover that you’re actually sharing the content – not following a profile? Save your readers from that frustration by clearly differentiating your follow buttons from your share buttons.

The best location for placing share buttons: things to keep in mind

Understand your audience

Where do your readers look first when they land on your website? What areas of your pages do they spend the most time on? Use a heat-mapping tool to find out how users scan your website

and place your share buttons in frequently-scanned locations. Moz.com, for example, places its share buttons on the right-hand sidebar of its blog posts:

Moz.com
Screenshot via Moz.com

You can bet that this is a strategic decision based on the in-depth analysis (like everything Moz.com does).

Place most-used share buttons in prominent locations

Too many social media buttons can be overwhelming for users (leading to what Webaholic calls “decision paralysis”) and they can slow down your page loading speeds, too.

Where do your readers spend most of their time on social media? If your audience shares content often on Facebook and Twitter, but rarely on LinkedIn, there’s no good reason to take up valuable website real estate with a prominent LinkedIn share button that will rarely get used.

Instead, list the share buttons for the social platforms your readers use most first and make them prominent.

Share buttons for lesser-used social media platforms can be less visible (or not present at all). QuickSprout, for example, has just two social sharing buttons (Twitter and Facebook) on posts that scroll as the reader scrolls:

QuickSprout
Screenshot via QuickSprout

The benefit to this approach is that the share buttons are always visible, at any point in the article, so readers can easily share the moment inspiration hits. Why just two? QuickSprout’s Neil Patel added Pinterest and LinkedIn share buttons back in 2013, but actually experienced a 29% decrease in shares. (Patel has since dropped Google+, but that’s a story for another day.) There are dozens of social media platforms, so dig into your analytics to find out where your readers are sharing content and choose wisely.

Test and optimize

Because websites and audiences are unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to placing social share buttons. In addition to using heat-mapping tools to discover the most-scanned areas of your website, you can also test various share button placements to learn where your readers are most likely to engage. Test a few common share button locations such as:

  • Inline with the text – Share buttons integrated within the copy of the article, such as in the middle of a post or after particularly compelling paragraphs.
  • Top of post – Because there’s little correlation between people sharing posts and actually reading them, placing share buttons at the top of the post can be quite effective for some companies. If you go this route, though, your headlines must be top-notch to convince readers your content is share-worthy.
  • Bottom of post – It makes sense to think that a reader who has just finished reading an excellent article might be inclined to share. Keep in mind, though, that you could miss out on readers who only skim partway through an article before deciding to click the share button.
  • Scrolling buttons – This approach, used by QuickSprout and Moz.com (as well as many others), keeps your share buttons in view from start to finish.

When you find the right location, use an attention-grabbing button design that complements your website. (Check out this post for some design inspiration.)

The best location for placing follow buttons: things to keep in mind

Easy to find

The same principle of findability that you use to decide where to place your share buttons applies to follow buttons, too – don’t send your readers on a scavenger hunt just to follow you on social media.

Consult the results from the heat-mapping analysis you conducted to determine the best location for your share buttons. What are other areas of the page your users spending the most time scanning? While your share buttons should be placed in close proximity to your content to encourage sharing, your follow buttons can take up other frequently-scanned pages real estate to ensure that your readers don’t miss out on the opportunity to follow your brand.

Don’t overwhelm the reader

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to stick to one location. It’s perfectly reasonable to have social media follow buttons in the page header and additional links to your social media profiles in the footer. There’s nothing wrong with giving users multiple options.

That said, you don’t want to add unnecessary clutter to your website, and you also don’t want to overwhelm your users – so testing several options is your best bet. If you find that you get more followers by placing follow buttons in both places, great. If not, your tests will reveal the location that generates the most engagement.

Header vs. footer

Most people automatically look in the header and footer regions of a web page when in search of social media buttons. While that may seem like a sure bet, how do you know your readers are actively searching for ways to share your content and follow your social profiles?

Many websites opt to place follow buttons in the page footer. This is a static location that’s always present (except in some cases, such as landing pages that have a different layout), and it’s one of the first places users look when intentionally searching for a way to follow a company or brand on social media. Others go for prominent top-right placement, putting follow buttons next to the company logo or contact information where users are almost guaranteed to see them.

Some examples we love

Mashable

If you have a scrolling header like Mashable does, your page header can actually be an ideal location for your follow buttons:

Mashable
Screenshot via Mashable

The buttons are always visible to readers, no matter how far they’ve read an article or what page they’re on. Plus, they’re easily distinguished from the share buttons, which are placed under each post heading:

Mashable

Screenshot via Mashable

Upworthy

Upworthy places its follow buttons in the prominent top-right area of the page, next to the main menu bar:

Upworthy
Screenshot via Upworthy

Foundr Magazine

Foundr Magazine is a good example of a minimalist approach. They use just a single set of share buttons and a single set of follow buttons, both strategically placed for maximum engagement: follow buttons in the footer with scrolling share buttons in the left-hand sidebar:

Foundr
Screenshot via Foundr

In short, the best location for your social media share and follow buttons is wherever your users are most likely to click them. That depends on a few things, such as your audience’s preferences, your website layout, and how most readers scan your web pages. It’s easy – and well worth your time – to run a few split tests to find the winning formula.