Check out any article on any website or blog online and you're almost guaranteed to find some colorful social sharing buttons alongside it. Content creators want to get their content spread far and wide and it stands to reason that prominent buttons help with this.
There are countless WordPress plugins to add social sharing buttons to your posts, but how do you decide which one to use?
In this post, you'll find the answer to that question.
How to Tell Good From Bad
The plugins we're looking at in this review are:
- UltimatelySocial - a new addition to this post.
- Social Warfare
- Sumo - formerly known as SumoMe
- Easy Social Sharing Buttons 5.2 (ESSB)
All of this plugins will add various social sharing buttons to your website. At first glance, they all seem to do about the same thing in about the same way, so how can we distinguish the better ones from the worse ones?
A social sharing plugin shouldn't just add some buttons to your site. It should also do so while having minimal impact on your page load times, be fully mobile optimized and help you avoid "negative social proof" (more on that later).
We chose these 7 plugins for our review based on their popularity as well as modern design customization options, mobile responsiveness and load time performance.
Plugins we initially considered but didn’t review included:
- Floating Social Bar
These plugins were cut because they either lacked functionality, modern features or – in the case of Jetpack – required self-hosted users to create and connect to a WordPress.com account.
We also wanted to go deep rather than wide, so we capped the review to just 7 plugins that passed our initial "sniff test".
Our Test Criteria - What Makes a Good Social Sharing Plugin?
We picked out the most important criteria that matter for websites with a business purpose. Our perspective in this test is that of an online entrepreneur: the primary goal isn't to have the prettiest looking share buttons or to get "likes" for personal validation. The goal is to find the best tool to help you increase your social reach and traffic, while keeping your website fast, streamlined and conversion focused.
Test #1: Load Time Performance
ANY plugin you activate on your WordPress website, MUST NOT significantly increase the load time of your posts or pages.
The reason for this is simple: long load times lead to increased bounce rates and decreased conversions.
Give fancy design customization and 50+ social sharing buttons the cold shoulder if the code slows down your website too much.
It seems like developers have all picked up on this pain point since most now market fast load times as key selling points.
Of course, we're not about to accept these marketing claims at face value. Instead, we put it to the test.
The Need for Speed: Load Time Testing
To gauge the load time performance of our six plugins, we ran them through a simple speed test on our demo website.
To establish a baseline for comparison, we first clocked our test page with just the Thrive Themes plugin suite activated to serve as a control.
Each social sharing plugin was tested on a skeleton page running the Pressive Theme from Thrive Themes. Only the Thrive Themes plugin suite and the social sharing plugin being tested were activated during each analysis.
Our test page was kept to a bare minimum loading only a logo, header menu, page title, breadcrumbs and footer links.
Setup options differ greatly from plugin to plugin. To make the test fair, we did our best to match settings in each plugin as close as possible.
Based on a Webaholic blog post that aggregated every social share button displayed across the "Top 50 news and internet marketing blogs," we decided to configure each plugin's share bar for the test using the four most frequently encountered share buttons on the internet: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.
The load time testing website used for this study was Pingdom.
We selected Pingdom because it provided the most consistent results compared to competitors like GTmetrix and WebPageTest.
We ran each test using the Google Chrome browser and Pingdom’s Dallas, Texas server to maintain hardware and software consistency across our study.
Each plugin test was run three times. To compare them, each plugin's three tests were averaged to serve as it's load time speed. This also helped to normalize any potentially random server inconsistencies in the test.
Load Time Test Results:
Based on the load time testing, it seems like developers received the need for speed message and blasted the blubber off their code.
Most of the plugins show a minimal impact on site speed and the differences between them are minimal.
The two exceptions are the Sumo Share app and Ultimately Social. Both of these solutions dump a significant amount of extra data onto your pages and increase the loading times by a significant (and noticeable) amount.
To be thorough, we also measured Sumo's average load time with all three of its social sharing apps activated (Share, Image Sharer and Highlighter). The data load nearly doubled (367.4 kB to 523.8 kB) and it's average load time increased by a further 110 ms.
Finally, as you might've guessed, the native buttons are unacceptably slow. Compared to almost any social sharing plugin out there, native button design customization, layout optionality and performance don’t come close. The test shows that native buttons are not a viable social sharing solution for your website.
An Update on Load Time Testing Tools
After doing extensive load time testing for ActiveGrowth's recent WordPress hosting review post titled "Which High-Performance Host is Right for Your WordPress Website?", we now recommend using WebPageTest for all your load time testing needs.
Unfortunately, Pingdom only shows the "Onload Time" instead of the "Fully Loaded Time" like WebPageTest and GTmetrix do by default. This is why Pingdom's test results are usually faster than GTmetrix and WebPageTest's.
Due to the countless number of test server locations you can choose from, advanced testing scenario options available and the ability to run up to 9 back-to-back tests at once, WebPageTest.org has become our preferred load time testing tool in place of Pingdom.
Test #2: The Price Factor
When it comes to WordPress social sharing plugins, everything from freemium installs to monthly memberships is available.
But do your free options provide enough functionality and will your paid options be worth the price?
Let's find out!
Plugin Pricing Table:
Limited Features with SumoMe Branding
Must turn off Default Ads
As we can see, the price ranges vary wildly across the different solutions we tested. ESSB is by far the cheapest option, while Sumo has a price tag that cannot be justified for the social sharing features alone (but there are many more features included in the subscription).
How much one of these plugins is worth to you is something you can decide by looking at our other test criteria (and our conclusion at the end of the post).
Test #3: Protection Against Negative Social Proof
If you have share buttons that show a large number of shares next to your blog post, that can act as great social proof. When a visitor comes a long and they see that hundreds of people have shared the article, they might see it in a more positive light themselves and they might stick around longer to actually engage with your content.
But there's a flip side to this kind of social proof as well... what happens if visitors come to one of your blog posts and that share counter displays a big, fat zero?
They might assume the article is rubbish and leave before even reading it.
If your share buttons are showing zeros, this actually becomes negative social proof and is something you should avoid.
The herd-mentality can subconsciously drive different behaviors in your online visitors. That's why it's so important to use a social sharing plugin that gives you the option to set a minimum share count
display threshold. Meaning: a share number will only be displayed once a minimum number of shares (defined by you) is reached.
Minimum Share Count Option
Out of all the plugins we tested, Ultimately Social was the only one where we couldn't find a feature to protect against negative social proof.
Test #4: Which Social Buttons Are Available?
One of the first things you might wonder when looking at a social sharing plugin is "How many social network buttons does this provide?"
It’s easy to assume that the number of social buttons a plugin has to offer is its most important feature. We don't think so.
The plugins we reviewed ranged from having as little as 11 social sharing buttons to over 80!
But more buttons does not equal better. In fact, it might even be time to delete a failing network button from your social sharing bar.
To avoid falling prey to social sharing button overload, make sure to understand what networks your target audience actually shares on. This should be your guide for what buttons to put on your site.
Don't just copy what the “Pros” are doing.
What Social Networks Do People Actually Share On?
To show you what we mean by checking what networks your audience shares content on, we collected social sharing data from BuzzSumo to do our own quick study.
Here’s the simple method we used to understand what the most important share buttons currently are:
- Pick several high-profile blogs from different industries.
- Check the BuzzSumo share data from each of those site’s top 5, most shared blog posts.
- Total the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ shares from those 5 blog posts to arrive at a total number of shares per network and a total share count per website.
- Calculate each social network’s share percentage from its total number of shares.
Below are the study results:
Share Percentages by Network:
Most notably, it seems that even high-traffic websites don’t often see their Google+ share percentages rise above 1%.
The Thrive Themes blog was an exception here because some of its top shared posts used social sharing content locks requiring a Facebook, Twitter or Google+ share before a content upgrade could be downloaded.
Also, many of these high-profile sites struggled to get LinkedIn and Pinterest shares as well. However, depending on the site's content niche, certain share buttons were more important than others.
This makes sense. You shouldn’t expect a food blog to get a lot of LinkedIn shares. Similarly, a text-dominated blog like the 4-Hour Workweek won’t get a lot of Pinterest shares compared to food and travel blogs (like Serious Eats and Nomadic Matt).
The point here is that it’s pretty easy to find out where your site's biggest social sharing levers are.
And you're probably better off showing a small number of the share buttons your visitors actually use. This prevents decision paralysis for your visitors and keeps your site loading fast.
Because of the conclusion we came to above, there are almost no differences between the different sharing plugins we tested. Yes, some of them support dozens of exotic social networks you've never heard of, but that's not really an advantage.
All of the candidates we tested support the big 3: Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
In our research, we could identify 4 significant "niche" networks that may be useful for certain niches or in certain cases: Pinterest (for image focused sites), Whatsapp (for sharing on mobile), Reddit (for sites closely linked to active subreddits) and Yummly (for recipe websites).
As you can see, Monarch is the only one of the plugins tested that doesn't support all of our niche networks. Will it affect your bottom line? Hardly.
Test #5: Design and Customization
Design isn't a massively important factor in our test (we definitely care more about performance) but we don't want to entirely neglect this factor, either. At the end of the day, it's best to have social share buttons on your site that are fast, functional and pretty.
The plugins we reviewed here all have modern designs ranging the
free to paid-solution cost spectrum so don’t get suckered into a settling for an old social sharing plugin using ugly and outdated button designs.
Monarch and ESSB provide the most extensive design options. Even though they both got all three check marks in the above comparison, it's worth noting that ESSB outdoes Monarch by a wide margin. It comes with countless templates and highly detailed customization options.
Another notable point in the comparison is that Ultimately Social has many templates to choose from, but the majority look shockingly outdated and ugly. So the total count of usable templates is quite low.
Test #6: Tracking Your Social Metrics
If you want to better understand where your social traffic is coming from, plugins with tracking features will be important to you.
This gives you the ability to optimize your social media efforts over time to let the data drive your incremental improvements.
To compare the plugins, we looked at 3 factors:
- Does the plugin create a dashboard in your WordPress admin area, where you can see your social sharing stats?
- Can you see stats for an individual post in that post's edit view?
- Does the plugin integrate with Google Analytics by automatically adding UTM parameters or tracking share clicks as events?
Here are the results:
Once again, ESSB passes with flying colors. Many of the other solutions have an either/or approach: they let Google Analytics take care of the social metrics or they provide their own dashboard.
Test #7: Mobile Responsiveness
As mobile browsing continues to explode, you must ensure that all your WordPress plugins are responsive to mobile and handheld devices.
When selecting your own social sharing plugin, make sure to ask yourself: do the buttons eat up too much screen space on mobile?
Because social sharing pop-up features tend to be intrusive or annoying on mobile, ask yourself: "Can this plugin be toggled off for handhelds while remaining active for desktops?"
Finally, with the increasing popularity of private social sharing on mobile instant messaging platforms, we checked to see whether or not the plugins provided a mobile-only Whatsapp button.
What Bad Mobile Responsiveness Looks Like...
In testing the mobile responsiveness of the different plugins for this review, we found a few problems – like the following in Shareaholic.
We set Shareaholic to display a row of share buttons above the post content, including a Whatsapp button at the end. The result on a desktop sized screen is (almost) as expected:
A screenshot of the Shareaholic "Above Content" share bar displayed on a desktop browser.
The only issue here is that showing a Whatsapp button on a desktop makes no sense. But there's no way to show it on mobile devices only, in Shareaholic.
However, when we look at this same post on a mobile device, something unexpected happens:
A screenshot of the Shareaholic "Above Content" share bar glitching on a mobile browser.
It seems that any buttons that don't fit this screen width are simply omitted. Needless to say, this is not a good solution for mobile responsiveness.
What Good Mobile Responsiveness Looks Like...
MashShare provides a good example of mobile responsiveness.
In the following MashShare social network setting screenshot, you can see that we selected the same 6 social network buttons as in our previous example:
A screenshot of the MashShare plugin dashboard showing the Social Network configuration tab.
Now, when we load the page on a desktop browser, the buttons display properly while omitting the mobile-only Whatsapp button.
A screenshot of the MashShare "Above Content" share bar displayed on a desktop browser.
Unlike Shareaholic however, when the MashShare buttons load on a mobile browser, they change size and omit the labels to accommodate smaller screens. The Whatsapp button also becomes accessible:
A screenshot of the MashShare "Above Content" share bar displaying properly on a mobile browser.
To compare all our plugins, we're looking at 3 factors for mobile friendliness:
- Are the social sharing buttons displayed in a mobile responsive way? I.e. will they neatly fit screens of different sizes?
- Is there an option to use a different layout and/or show the buttons in a different position on mobile devices? For example, we may want to display share buttons prominently on large screens, but remove most of them to save up screen space on smaller devices.
- Are there buttons we can show on mobile devices only, such as a "share on Whatsapp" button, which really only makes sense on mobile phones.
Here's the breakdown:
Most of the plugins do a good enough job, as in: they don't break on mobile devices in any way. The only exception here was Shareaholic, as shown above. Sumo, ESSB and MashShare provide the most comprehensive options, so you can make sure the sharing experience is uncompromised on large screens as well as mobile devices.
Test #8: GDPR Compliance
One of the original purposes of social sharing buttons, as designed by social networks, is to track visitors across the web. If you embed the official share buttons of Facebook, Twitter & Co. on your site, you get the button and they get data about your visitors.
This kind of thing is not compliant with GDPR, a set of regulations that applies to EU citizens and as such, to any website that may have visitors from the EU.
We updated this post to add our take on the GDPR compliance of the test candidates:
We've added notes and sources here because GDPR is the muddiest of waters. It's difficult to get clear and reliable information about whether a solution is compliant and what steps were taken to achieve such compliance. Unless we found a good source, we are erring on the safe side and assuming a lack of compliance.
Social Sharing Plugins for WordPress: the Individual Reviews
Now that we've analyzed the plugins under each of our test criteria, let's take a closer look at each individual plugin and learn some more about their strengths and weaknesses.
UlitmatelySocial offers both a free and premium version of their social sharing plugin. Though the free version does offer quite a bit of functionality, there are some important features we'll discuss below that can only be used in the paid version.
If you do decide to purchase an UltimateSocial Premium license, support and updates are only valid for a single year at which point you'll have to pay again to renew your product license.
The UltimatelySocial WordPress dashboard.
The Good Stuff
UltimatelySocial manages a nice balance between having a simple and easy to understand user interface, but still giving you a good range of customization options. It makes setting up your social sharing buttons an easy and pleasant experience.
During setup, the UltimatelySocial dashboard provides a step-by-step walkthrough of all the different design, placement and action options that are available to you. Out of all the backend layouts we reviewed for this post, UltimatelySocial now ranks as the most user-friendly.
The free version of the plugin allows you to select sharing buttons for all the major social networks except for WhatsApp – that one is only available in the premium version.
Another cool feature that UltimatelySocial provides is the multitude of actions you can program your different social buttons to do. For example, many of your buttons (like the Facebook button) can be set to share posts or pages, but can also have like your Facebook page and follow you on social networks directly from your site. Unfortunately, that last one is a premium feature only...
Finally, the premium version of UltimatelySocial gives you a lot of choices when it comes to selecting and customizing where your social sharing buttons will and won't be displayed. These layout features are much more limited in the free version of the plugin, but good enough if you don't want to spend cash for the extra functionality.
You can read how UltimatelySocial modified their plugin to be GDPR compliant here.
The Bad Stuff
A problem with UltimatelySocial is that it's a bulky plugin which means slow load times compared to its competitors. Because speed matters, this is no trivial detail.
To be fair, it's hard to make a true apples-to-apples load time comparison between UltimatelySocial and the other plugins showcased in this review because multiple testing conditions changed between the addition of UltimatelySocial and our original review (explained above in the Load Time Test Results section).
Regardless, UltimatelySocial does appear to be big and slow so be weary of that factor and test the page load times for yourself – both before and after you install it – if you decide to use it.
The "Display" configuration tab on the Social Warfare dashboard.
The Good Stuff
Social Warfare offers beautifully designed social sharing buttons that are responsive across desktop and mobile platforms.
The setup dashboard is straightforward compared to most of the other plugins we tested for this review. It only takes a few moments to familiarize yourself with all the plugin features and launch the design you want on your site.
If you’re only interested in using the most popular social buttons, Social Warfare’s 15 button selection has you covered.
Additionally, Social Warfare comes with its unique Frame Buster feature. Frame Buster prevents shady marketing programs like Sniply from stealing your website’s content.
Sniply is a service that allows users to create shareable links of your content while adding their own floating call to action buttons on top of your pages. In the end, Sniply links suck because even though they can increase your website’s traffic, they can negatively impact your conversions.
Another cool Social Warfare feature that few plugins offer is a Click-to-Tweet button. Essentially, the Click-to-Tweet feature makes it easier for your readers to share an important line of content you want to emphasize by placing an attractive Twitter share card within your posts. Note that if you use Thrive Architect, you've already got a built-in feature to do this.
Finally, a major benefit Social Warfare provides users with is its share count recovery feature. If you need to change your permalink structure or switch from http to https, Social Warfare can help you recover your hard earned share counts to maintain your site’s social proof.
The Bad Stuff
Although Social Warfare provides a Whatsapp button for mobile browsers, at the time of our testing, it didn’t work on any mobile device we tested it on. When clicked, the button simply disappeared and opened the social button to its left.
With such a glaring glitch, you might wonder how helpful their support team is.
To us, that concern was validated after viewing a few of their blog posts and digging into user comments. Social Warfare seemed to get a lot of complaints about technical issues made worse by slow support team response.
Another brow-raising complaint we found was that Social Warfare only allows one image to be shared on Pinterest from the share bar and that image must be set manually on each page or it defaults to sharing the featured image.
If you already have a massive website relying heavily on image shares for traffic, this drawback might be too time intensive to commit yourself to.
Monarch is another very popular social sharing plugin purchased as part of the Developer and Lifetime Access, Elegant Themes memberships.
The "Locations" configuration tab on the Monarch dashboard.
The Good Stuff
Like Social Warfare, Monarch offers advanced design customization
and layout control within its easy to use dashboard.
The Monarch button designs and click animations are attractive and visually appealing.
Each layout option (sidebars, inline content, popups, etc.) has its own set of configuration settings and page targeting rules. This means that the different kinds of social button bars can have different trigger and display rules. For example, if you want inline content share buttons to appear on desktops and mobiles, but your floating sidebars to only show up on desktop browsers, it's easy to set those kinds of configurations.
Monarch provides users with over 20 network buttons to choose from. So unless you’re in need of a niche social button, Monarch probably has what you need, except for this important mobile network...
After chatting with Elegant Themes' customer support team, we were told that "Monarch is fully GDPR compliant by default. When you load a page with Monarch on it, Facebook, Twitter, etc. aren’t receiving any data from the Monarch plugin."
They also directed us to a recent Elegant Themes' blog post on their GDPR compliance modifications here.
The Bad Stuff
The one button Monarch doesn't have is Whatsapp. With the growing trend of mobile browsing and sharing through private messaging, Monarch users should ask Elegant Themes to add this feature soon.
Also, a Monarch dashboard issue we thought users would initially find frustrating was how the setup configurations for each type of social bar were separate from their on/off toggle switches.
For example, the configuration options for a floating sidebar is on its own tab. However, you must switch to the “Locations” tab to then activate the display of that newly configured sidebar.
Monarch is a competent plugin, but it's not worth the price of admission by itself. If you are an Elegant Themes member because you want to use some of their other tools, you can also consider using Monarch. If not, it's not worth joining Elegant Themes just to get this plugin.
Easy Social Share Buttons 5.2
From its initial release in 2013, Easy Social Share Buttons has grown into a complex, feature packed add-on for WordPress. The version we tested (5.2.2 to be exact) is no exception.
One of the dashboards under the "Social Sharing" configuration tab on the EESB user interface.
The Good Stuff
Of all the plugins tested in this review, ESSB had the most features and configuration options. There's basically nothing any of the other plugins can do that ESSB can't also do (and often does better).
ESSB also offers a wide range of button designs and layout customization. The button hover and button click animation options were plentiful and displayed well on mobile.
A good way to avoid feature overload with the plugin is to use one of its many “Ready Made” style sets. These ready made style options mimicked highly shared websites like Copyblogger.
Out of all the plugins tested for this review, ESSB also offered the most powerful set of display rules. ESSB gives you the most control when it comes to setting what pages your different social share buttons will display on.
If you are in need of a less popular social network button, ESSB has over 40 buttons to choose from, including a functioning Whatsapp button.
You can read how ESSB modified their plugin to be GDPR compliant here.
The Bad Stuff
As you can tell from the review so far, ESSB is absolutely packed with features. There's one downside to this: it's easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of options in the dashboard. This is made worse by the fact that many of the labels and descriptions in the user interface are written in unclear and poor English, often adding more confusion than anything else.
On several occasions, it took me some time spent on trial and error before I understood how an option in the settings actually affected the buttons on my site.
Finally, although you can purchase ESSB for a single $19 purchase, assume that you’ll need to make a new “one-time” purchase whenever ESSB decides to release a major new version. We say this because we had to pay $19 to upgrade from version 3.0 to version 4.0 for this review.
Having said all that, ESSB is still the cheapest option. Just consider a certain time cost for getting to know how it works as part of the price of admission.
Sumo (formerly SumoMe) is a freemium suite of apps that provides social sharing tools through their Share, Image Sharer and Highlighter apps. The basic versions of the apps are free and can be upgraded to Pro if you pay an annual membership fee.
The "Settings" configuration tab on the Sumo Share dashboard.
The Good Stuff
The best part about Sumo is that you get a lot more than social share buttons when you install it on your website.
You can begin your membership for free on a single website. The Sumo plugin and app dashboards are simple to navigate and setup.
All Sumo apps have their own dashboards which requires you to configure each one separately. The Sumo social sharing apps (Share, Image Sharer and Highlighter) are no exception. However, Sumo does provide helpful guided setups for new users to get started quickly.
For the Share app, share bar layout options use a visual on/off toggle map to help take the guessing out of where they will appear.
The Bad Stuff
The bad news is that even with the fully-functional Sumo Pro apps, the share button design options are limited and you won’t have much freedom to customize.
On top of limited design, mobile responsiveness and advanced display settings aren’t available unless you upgrade to the annual Pro subscription.
Other extras like and inline content share bars and UTM tracking are hidden behind their paywall as well.
If you decide to stick with the free Sumo apps, you’ll have to show Sumo branding across your website. Only an upgrade to a Pro membership will remove it.
Also, based on our load time study, Sumo was the bulkiest and slowest performing plugin we tested.
The combination of limited design options, high annual costs and slow load time performance make Sumo undesirable if you’re only looking to add social share buttons to your site.
Sumo has not yet rolled out their update to be GDPR compliant across their plugin's suite of apps, but is working towards a release for it soon.
MashShare is a social sharing plugin with a unique button design that mimics the tech-entertainment site Mashable.
It’s primary plugin is free to download and use across your website.
However, you must purchase add-ons if you want to expand MashShare’s available features.
The "General Settings" configuration tab on the MashShare dashboard.
The Good Stuff
The free MashShare plugin gives you access to the Facebook, Twitter and Email social sharing buttons. If you want to keep your social sharing minimal with just the top 2 networks, MashShare is for you.
We liked how MashShare offered a direct toggle switch to disable share buttons on your homepage. MashShare also gives you the display control to place or omit social share bars via WordPress categories, posts, pages and custom post types.
If you decide to purchase one or more of MashShare’s 12 add-ons, you can pay for them individually (for a pricey €20 each) or in package deals anywhere from €39 to €339. Some of the package deals allow you to install the add-ons on more than one site.
The most useful add-ons will give you access to features including more social sharing buttons (up to 27), floating sidebars, Click-to-Tweet cards and video post share buttons.
The Whatsapp mobile sharing button is also included in the social network add-on.
The Bad Stuff
If you're looking for a plugin that displays individual share counts per network, MashShare only shows total share counts (in the main plugin) and total views (as an add-on) next to the share buttons.
And although some users may appreciate MashShare's minimalist design features, getting add-ons like 24 extra social buttons will cost you.
There are several customization and configuration options available across the add-ons, but the ability to arrange your network button order is not one of them. Where most social sharing plugins allow you to configure your own button order or have them dynamically sorted by frequency of shares, MashShare limits you to their default order.
Also, the share bar layout options are limited to just the top and bottom of your content in the free version. To expand layout options to include sidebars, image sharing buttons and video post sharing buttons, you must purchase the respective add-ons.
Finally, although some people may find this appealing, we were not impressed by MashShare’s “Fake Share Count” option. You simply input a number from 1 to 999,999 and MashShare will spit out a smaller number to lie about your total share count for you.
That’s just bad marketing karma if you ask us. If you’re foolish enough to use this feature, beware. The floating sidebar will show the actual share count next to your fake share count if you display them together.
Using MashShare left a bit of a bad taste because it so relentlessly advertises all the paid extensions (even after you've purchased them). You can't help but feel that the plugin's priority is to get your money, more than to help you build a better website.
Shareaholic is a free plugin that provides advanced button design and layout options. It monetizes itself through revenue sharing of Promoted Content through its participating users' sites.
You’re allowed to disable Shareaholic’s ads and just use their social sharing buttons, but the ads are active by default when you install the plugin.
The "App Manager" configuration tab on the Shareaholic dashboard.
The Good Stuff
Shareaholic comes with a good range of display control and network buttons to choose from in the free version.
You can download the plugin straight from your WordPress dashboard and use it with partial functionality. To access all the Shareaholic features (like floating sidebars and image share buttons) you have to sign up for their free online account.
The settings layout across the Shareaholic dashboard is a bit clumsy to navigate since each share bar layout option must be configured separately.
However, this is good because it gives you a lot of control over where different share bars can be displayed (above or below content on: posts, pages, indexes, and categories), but the tradeoff is a bulky setup dashboard.
The Bad Stuff
We were a bit peeved that Shareaholic’s "Related and Promoted Content" ads were turned on by default. But, at least turning them off isn’t very complicated once you learn to navigate the plugin.
Another frustrating characteristic about Shareaholic is that you must create and login to an online membership account to access the plugin’s full features.
This means you’ll be bouncing back and forth between your WordPress dashboard and the Shareaholic website to fully configure the plugin.
And even though Shareaholic includes the Whatsapp instant messaging button, most of your visitors won't ever see it.
A big glitch we discovered when testing Shareaholic was that it failed to display all the share buttons selected when the number of buttons exceeded a device's screen width. This held true for both mobile and desktop
This means that when your share buttons should wrap down into a second row, the trailing buttons simply disappear off screen instead.
This is a disaster for mobile viewing because, in most cases, only the first 3 buttons on your share bar will appear.
Finally, Shareaholic makes it very difficult to display total share counts. Even though showing total share counts seems to be a basic feature for all other plugins, Shareaholic requires you to manually insert code snippets on every page you want them displayed.
Although Shareaholic claims to be GDPR compliant in a single WordPress.org forum thread, they've not shared any details showing how their plugin follows the new EU data privacy regulation.
Until Shareaholic gets serious about explaining how their plugin is compliant, we're not going to take their single "trust me" forum comment at face value.
Social Warfare - Not Recommended
Social Warfare is an attractive plugin, but overpriced as a yearly subscription service (especially when considering their user complaints and slow customer support).
However, if you're interested in their Frame Buster feature, Social Warfare provides it for free as a stand-alone plugin.
Monarch - Not Recommended
Monarch is an attractive and easy to use social sharing plugin, but overpriced on its own.
Monarch's value only makes sense if you plan to use the entire suite of Elegant Themes plugins.
Sumo - Not Recommended
Sumo offers few design features in exchange for its lagging load times.
In the free version, limited functionality and forced branding weren't worth the load-time drag.
The full-feature memberships were way too costly for social sharing buttons alone.
Sumo is also not currently GDPR compliant, but will likely be soon.
Shareaholic - Not Recommended
Shareaholic is an attractive, free and feature-filled plugin that we'd like to recommend...
...but can't due to its glaring button responsiveness glitch. That bug kept us from giving it the green light as a great free option.
Also, Shareaholic hasn't explained to its users how the plugin is GDPR compliant so we're going to assume it's not until shown otherwise.
UltimatelySocial - Not Recommended
UltimatelySocial is a super easy to use plugin with a decent amount of customization options and functionality in the free version. If you want to get all the features however, you'll have to weigh whether or not $25 a year for a social sharing plugin is worth the ongoing cost...
It does many things well, but we can't recommend it mainly because its bulky code has the potential to slow down your load times and affect your conversion rates.
MashShare - Cautiously Recommended
MashShare is sleek, minimalist and free if you don't need more than Facebook and Twitter buttons. The 8-pack of add-ons is worth the price, but the 12-pack and individually purchased add-ons aren't.
We can only recommend MashShare with some caveats. You have to compromise on the share count feature for this plugin to be GDPR compliant and the need to purchase a seemingly endless number of add-ons taints the user experience somewhat.
Easy Social Share Buttons 5.2 - Recommended
Easy Social Share Buttons is packed full of value for a great price. In almost every aspect, it just beats the pants off of the competition. The only downside is the relatively steep learning curve. To get the most out of the plugin, expect to spend an afternoon wading through what feels like 500 settings screens. But once you've got it running, it's the best solution money can buy.
Social sharing buttons are definitely not the highest priority plugin on your website, but it’s important to get a solution that can actually help boost social traffic without harming your conversions.
We hope this post will be useful to help you make the right plugin choice for your website.
If you have any thoughts, questions or comments, feel free to join the discussion below!