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:
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:
Load Time Difference
Data Size Difference
Nr. of Requests
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:
One Time Purchase
Yearly Sub. Price
$29 - $250 /yr
Limited Features with SumoMe Branding
$348 - $2388 /yr
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:
Per Post Stats
Google Analytics Support
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:
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:
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:
Now, when we load the page on a desktop browser, the buttons display properly while omitting the mobile-only Whatsapp button.
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:
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 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.
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 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.
You can read how Social modified their plugin to be GDPR compliant as explained in this WordPress.org forum thread.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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 browsers.
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!
Great article, very thorough. thank you for sharing.
Thanks David, I’m glad you found it useful!
Which one do you use for ActiveGrowth.com?
Since ActiveGrowth uses the Focus Blog theme from Thrive Themes, we use its built-in social sharing button feature to keep load times to a minimum.
You can check out Shane’s video post on Thrive Theme’s built-in social sharing buttons here: https://thrivethemes.com/meet-thrive-social-buttons/
I use Thrive for most sites I build and would be very interested if you compared the in-built social sharing with those plugins tested. I appreciate the purpose of the post isn’t to promote Thrive but I for one would love to know how well Thrive stacks up in this comparison
That’s a valid request. I’ll make sure to include the built-in Thrive Themes social sharing buttons in the future update to this review.
Exactly. I came down to ask this. I was kind of disappointed to not have seen any words about it. I understand that this post is NOT inside of the TT’s blog, and it’s about external plugins and not about specific themes or frameworks functionalities.
Still I was left with the question: should I install the plugin recommended or is my TT thing enough?
Great post Matt! And thanks for bringing up Sniply and how to combat it! When I first learned about that and that it was hijacking my content – well, you can say I was pretty pissed. But great analysis here – will be sharing!
Glad I could help shed some light on Sniply…that service leads to some bad marketing karma in my opinion. Many thanks for sharing!
Thanks for a thorough review, Matt
Was surprised to see Shareholic performed well in the speed test – my own experience with it(confirmed with feedback I’ve found online) was the opposite… would slow down load time badly + cause all sorts of conflicts.
…have to say it was a couple years ago since I’ve used it, so maybe they’ve improved it.
I’ve been using Social Media Feather ever since (after researching and testing a metric ton of others ;) – light, fast, pretty, fairly easy to set up, free + paid option (no affiliation to them btw)
Would love to see how it compares (page load time wise) in your test, if you can be bothered to check it
Glad to hear about your experience with Shareaholic and Social Media Feather.
As you probably noticed from the test environment we created, results were taken from a bare bones web page with only the Thrive Themes suite of plugins installed. It’s possible that this test scenario may not apply linearly for large web pages running a mess of third-party plugins.
If we do an update to this post in the future, it would be cool to test a much more complex setup to see if the social sharing plugins still perform.
This is a great and in depth post. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I’m curious to see how the Floating Social WordPress Plugin from http://www.premium.wpmudev.org stacks up against the ones that you reviewed. Since I have a dev license to Thrive Themes I’m going to test it out and see (or I can provide you with the plugin if you want to test it out as well, just let me know) Again, thanks for taking the time to write such an awesome review.
We may do an update to this review in the near future and will definitely take a look at it then.
I agreed with most of your reviews and have tried all of these plugins on my site over the last few months. The one thing missing from your review is how good the code interacts with Thrive, the overall display, and how they work with caching plugins like W3 Total Cache, etc. (I am using Pressive, Performag, and Squared on a few sites right now).
I have found that both the Easy Social Share Plugin and Mashare plugins are extremely finicky and have problems with display from time to time. Especially Mashare. I still use Easy Social on a few sites and I like the feature set, but it is a bit counter-intuitive in the interface. Its not a bad plugin considering the price. It doesn’t do well with the specific type of display I like though.
Social Warface kept having display issues due to caching and my CDN settings.
The only one which works great for me without any issues (yet) has been Monarch. Yes, they don’t have Whats APP, but most of my site visitors don’t use that tool. In fact I had 2 clicks on it in 2 months from my recipe site so I removed it.
The biggest issue with Monarch is that you have to be an Elegant Themes member, but if you like the DIVI Theme builder and other tools and themes they have, it is definitely worth the price at just $89 a year for everything on their site.
Just my 2 cents.
Thanks for sharing so much detail and context about your experiences with these plugins!
You bring up some great points about caching plugins and display performance that we should definitely dive into for the next iteration of this review.
Your personal data points about where each of these tools stumble will also be super useful for our readers. When we update this review in the near future, we may try to stress test these bad boys to get a better idea of when and what makes them glitch.
I think the review is in agreement with you about Monarch. If you’re already an Elegant Themes member and don’t need the Whatsapp button, it’s a great choice…good on you for testing your social sharing buttons too!
Is the review about social links to the websites social accounts or general links to Facebook, twitter etc
This review is about WordPress plugins that make social media sharing buttons appear on your website. The purpose of these plugins is to make social media sharing of your content easier and more streamlined for online visitors.
Hey Matt thanks for taking the time to gather this info. Plugins are always a source of frustration especially when they don’t work well together.
My pleasure Michael!
Helping people avoid creating Abominable Plugin Monsters is definitely a top priority. When plugins don’t play nice together, they can both frustrate and hurt your bottom line.
thanks for that nice and helpful acticle. I also use the plugin Easy Social Share Buttons to share my posts. Another great Plugin is Blog2Social. For active sharing of blog posts, the Blog2Social plugin provides powerful options for auto-posting, scheduling and cross-promoting your posts across the various social media. The option to customize the social media post with individual texts and comments helps that the posts don’t look automatic.
Thanks for your comment and suggestion Marina!
This is great Matt. Very thorough. Found it interesting even though I too use the Focus Blog theme, Thrive Themes, so use this functionality for my website. Thank you.
I’m glad to hear the built-in social sharing button feature is working out for you through the Focus Blog theme.
I had to test your test.
Completely blown away.
I switched quickly to Mashshare from Thrive Theme’s built in sharing and dropped to below 1 second load time and went to faster than 97% of other websites according to Pingdom.
I still have work to do but your recommendation just saved me a massive amount of loading time.
It’s great to hear you got so much load time lift from the review Frank!
I checked out your website and it looks like the Mashshare button design fits nicely with your blog design too.
Thanks for testing out the review recommendations on your own website!
Thanks for the in-depth roundup of these tools.
As per a previous comment, it would have been useful to compare the in-built Thrive social sharing buttons. I don’t think they are necessarily the best-looking buttons, but they may offer a faster speed over the overs.
I’ve been using Social Warfare for a couple of years and I’ve been impressed with them. I did have one issue that took a while to fix but it wasn’t a show-stopper. They’ve rewritten a lot of the code recently so it might be that they have fewer problems in the future.
You mentioned about the Pinterest share button only sharing one image. I think is a good feature. It lets you specify a tall, portrait-sized Pinterest image and they are proven to get more repins and shares. Plus they also have the option to switch on the Pinterest hover button feature for all other images in your post. So I think they cover both bases well.
And thanks for sharing your experience with Social Warfare’s support team and the Pinterest feature. It’s good to hear that the plugin has been a strong social sharing button solution for you over multiple years now.
As for the built-in Thrive Themes sharing buttons, we’ll make sure to add them to the future update of this review so there’s a comparison against the plugins we examined here.
Matt, please don’t publish another review. Just make sure that the Thrive Themes social buttons are THE best. Thanks.
Hi Matt! Thanks for your honest and fair review. I wanted to clarify Social Warfare’s Pinterest button does, because I think there has been some misinterpretation.
Having done a great deal of research, finding what led to the best results (traffic from shares) as well as partnering with some of the leading Pinterest consultants we developed a system that does the following:
1. IF you have an optimized image that you want to be shared to Pinterest (because you know what will perform better and you want to get the best return when people Pin your content) then you can upload a Pinterest image via Social Warfare.
2. IF there is NO PINTEREST IMAGE uploaded to Social Warfare then the plugin then checks for the WordPress Feature Image as the Pinterest image. This is because many of our users have spent a lot of time optimizing their feature images for Pinterest and some control over what is shared seemed better than no control.
3. IF there is NO FEATURED IMAGE then the final fall back is to default Pin button functionality which allows a user to choose from any image on the page.
We are now working on a new feature that will give users the choice of whether or not they want the plugin to default to the feature image.
Social Warfare was developed on the grounds of 2 core principles: Features that get the best results (based on social media expert practices and data) and the fastest load times possible. While we do work hard to keep up with our growing userbase and the demands of the support that go with it, we will take this as an opportunity to work even harder.
Thanks again for the honest review!
Thanks for sharing all the in-depth details about Social Warfare’s current Pinterest feature and upcoming improvements. I’m sure readers will appreciate the extra info you provided to better understand the full capabilities of the plugin.
We’ll keep an eye out for new releases of Social Warfare so we can test it once again for the next update of this review!
This is an interesting comparison but the question is: are social share buttons actually useful?
I did lots of tests on my blog with roughly 200,000 unique visitors per month and couldn’t notice any increase of traffic with and without share buttons. My conclusion was that people share the content with or without buttons.
It would be interesting to see if my experience is also true for other websites.
Social share buttons also are a part of User Experience. Personally me as a visitor, I wont take pain of copying URL and pasting it where ever I want it to share.
Its just fraction of seconds, a visitor can change its mind.
I think your comment touches on an interesting point about personal sharing preferences.
There are definitely people out there who still like to wield full control over their sharing actions by personally accessing networks and manually pasting URLs, but I’m guessing convenience in the user experience probably wins out more often than not.
But, the only way to know what works for your audience is to be a broken record and test, test test! ;)
It’s definitely a good question and one that crossed my mind a few times while reviewing these plugins. It’s one reason why we always encourage readers to do their own testing to determine what works best for their particular niche and industry.
If I had to speculate, I’d guess that different audience demographics (i.e. generational differences) might be more or less prone to use the share buttons. Your experience and large traffic volume definitely adds an important data point to the conversation so thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Shane, for this article! I bought easy social share based on your recommendations. Also, they may have listened to your feedback because…
UPDATE: ESS has an option to select different networks to share to on mobile.
Also, Monarch hasn’t been updated in awhile and I can NOT recommend it as it has a display error when you use Thrive Themes.
I’m glad to hear the article was helpful to you!
And many thanks for the heads up about ESSB’s update to version 4.1! After reading your comment, I checked out the plugin again and confirmed that they’d fixed the Whatsapp button issue and improved the mobile sharing options. As a result, I updated the review to reflect this.
Thanks again for your comment!
Hi Matt Totten,
Consider testing the WPUpper Share Buttons plugin.
Congratulations on article, very good.
Thanks for the suggestion Victor!
First of all thank you for posting. The plugin I am looking for is the one you are having on your website. Could you please let me know what plugin are you using.???
The social sharing features on ActiveGrowth aren’t from a plugin, but part of the Thrive Themes theme that we use.
Since I use Thrive Themes, would there be any need to use a social share plugin? Thanks!
I’m wondering the same thing.
Exactly what I was wondering. I hope Matt or Shane will explain this. :-)
Depends on how important social sharing is, for your site.
The Thrive Themes social sharing features are good, but quite limited. We never intended to create the best or most advanced sharing feature, just something lean and simple. If you don’t need more features and more customizability than what you get in our themes, then there’s no need for a 3rd-party plugin.
Very useful article but unfortunately some of the charts are not showing anymore due to some plugin error. Please see if you can correct it or if you can write down in text what were the results for the speed test, for the pricing comparison and the number of networks you can share on. I really liked the thorough approach, it’s obvious you put some work into it. As a detail for the future, I would be very interested which of them integrate with Google Analtyics and have statistics about which networks are performing best.
Thanks for your comment and heads up about the tables Raluca!
I was also testing a tables plugin with this post that we must have deactivated. Now that Thrive Architect has mobile responsive tables, I’ll redo them using Thrive Architect instead.
I’ll definitely keep your suggestion about the Google Analytics integration in mind whenever we get around to doing a Part 2 update for this post.
UPDATE: The broken wpDataTables plugin tables have now been replaced with Thrive Architect mobile responsive tables so you can view the data now.
Thanks again for the heads up on the broken tables Raluca!
Thank you very much for your quick reply and for fixing the tables! Again, a very useful article that helped me make a choice.
Glad to hear it was so useful for you Raluca!
Thanks Man You solved My Problem i am Searching for sharing plugin list now its so easy for me i am Glad.
Good to hear Stemack!
Am a beginner blogger and looking social sharing wordpress plugin for blog where I can share content on whatsapp as well as other social networking site. Thanks for sharing great post. Regards
Awesome listing! Thanks for sharing.
You can also try one more social share plugin called Advance Select And Share PRO. This is very clean, responsive and fully customizable plugin that you can use to share selected texts from the post in different social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more.
What about Social Share & Locker Pro WordPress Plugin. I bought it years ago and seems decent to me. I think it can even compete with Easy Social Share Buttons. :)
Boom!! I was already using the winner without even knowing it. Thanks for the powerful review Shane!
Thank you, Jonas!
Thanks for this review. I’ve been wondering for a long time which social media sharing plugin was the best. I currently use the social sharing buttons available on Thrive Architect but the functionalities are limited. I wish they were further developed because I am reluctant to overcrowd my websites with too many plugins.
I understand this reluctance. We haven’t further developed our share buttons simply as a matter of priority. Social sharing isn’t the main thing we focus on and I believe we server more people better by developing features that make our page builder better and add more conversion and marketing features than if we spent the same time developing social sharing features.
One note about Social Warfare …
You can see the shares per post, in the “All Posts” view. There’s a column there for “Social Shares.”
Have used SW for some time, and overall have been pleased with performance and features. Plus, their Click-to-Tweet is one of the best I’ve seen.
Thanks for the article!
It’s really great stuff. This is exactly what I need for social share plugin. I’m wondering if I removed my old social share plugin and installed new ESSB, would all the shares counts be reflected or I have to start all over again ?
It depends on how the share counts were generated in the first place. Some social networks have removed their public APIs for getting share counts. If share counts were generated based on how many people clicked the share buttons, then you’d lose those counts on switching to a different plugin. If share counts are received from the social network’s API, then you’d keep them when switching.
Great article! One problem I keep having with the social sharing plugins (I’ve tested Social Warfare and ESSB until now) is that when we use Thrive Headline Optimizer on a post, the post on Facebook (not tested other networks) is broken. The title of the post in social media shows some tags. Neither SW nor ESSB solved this. Unfortunately, neither Thrive did it. So basically you cannot use Thrive Headline Optimizer if you want to use a social sharing plugin.
My thought too! Thanks for bringing tis up.
Thanks for your comment! We’ll have to check this out, to see if we can apply a fix.
The free version of Social Warfare is enought for most of the situation.
And If you ever switched from http to https you will need the share recovery feature.
Thanks for your comment!
ESSB also has a share recovery feature. I think those two are the only ones with such a feature.
What happens if I change to ESSB or Social Warfare to use the share recovery feature but later down the track I decide to deactive it in order to use another Social Plugin – will my posts go back to 0 shares?
Thank you for providing valuable information that is very helpful for beginners and I always inspire from you and your blog.
You really shocked me with this article.
I definitely bow to your high-class knowledge of all these things. And I’m more than thankful that you take the heavy load of comparing plugins and all the stuff.
As a pure WP user, I just don’t have the time and the knowledge to do so. WordPress is supposed to support my business. Not to steal my time.
I don’t want to spend time on a 10+ minute video that in the end, points me to another plugin I should use and I have never heard of before.
I’m a proud member of ThriveThemes, doing my best to harness all the great features the TT plugins have.
There are social share buttons integrated with the TT themes and I desperately hope that they are the best I can get.
I’m more than willing to pay double or triple the price of the TT membership in return for a good night sleep because of you guys doing your job of optimizing the TT products.
So please, please ease my mind by telling me that I can totally forget about this stuff.
And by telling me, that all you have learned from your plugin review (speeding, GRPD and WTF more) will be considered in the next update of the ThriveTheme products.
Let me still believe that I already have THE best solutions for WordPress, because you guys doing THE best job out there.
Interesting that you showed Social Warfare’s free version as flame busters on WP plugin repository. Yet they offer a free version of Social Warfare itself on WP plugin repository here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/social-warfare/
With 12 active websites and experience with WP since June 2008, I’ve seen and have tried out a number of “social sharing” plugins. I stopped using shareaholic because I found them annoying. Currently, I use 4 different vendors including Social Warfare, Simple Social Share and Thrive themes build-in depending on the site.
Likewise I found this article to be quite informative – Thanks!
Espectacular articulo, muy instructivo…
I will never known which plugins are better before read your compare. I guest it takes you a lot of time.
Thanks so much for sharing your hard work.
Happy to help, Andrew!
Thanks for sharing these social plugins, Actually I was wandering here and there just to find them. I’ll use one of them to enhance my blog traffic.
Thank you for the thorough research into the social sharing plugins Matt.
What’re your thoughts when comparing with Thrive Themes ‘built-in’ social sharing options in comparison?
I’ve used the options within ‘Rise Theme’ and they are laid out differently to their other themes where they aren’t available on the right side and we HAVE TO enable sticky header to ensure the share icons remain on the page when visitors read the posts/pages, and then only available within the sticky header area.
Have you thought about a comparison post about the best plugin to use in WordPress for automatic social posting after publishing blog posts?
I’ve spent a long time already with this and currently have Blog2Social plugin running.
However, there seems to be a bug in Architect whereby the posts code seems to remain at an earlier revision than whatever has been updated or finished within Thrive Architect interface.
This creates the problem because Blog2Social (and I don’t know if all auto social plugins pull data from the posts and pages HTML/code) but because this plugin uses the page/posts code and NOT the finished page text – it pulls in the incorrect text for social submissions.