For the longest time, I’ve relied on the free Genesis Simple Share plugin for social sharing on my sites. It’s lightweight, easy to set up, and doesn’t require a lot of thought – it was a great solution considering how little time I’m able to devote to blogging.
Recently, though, I realized that my content wasn’t really being shared in the way I wanted, partially because I wasn’t using the best sharing plugin for my needs.
I got 99 problems, and my sharing plugin is one of them.
I had a couple of issues with Genesis Simple Share:
(1) Image choice: It tended to select my featured image for sharing, which isn’t what I wanted. Visitors could use the little arrows on the popups to choose a different image, but very few of them actually did so.
(2) No “per network” options: The horizontal images I prefer for my posts don’t really work well for Pinterest, but there was no way to tell Simple Share to use a different image depending on what type of share is happening. Instead, I was forced to use vertical “pinnable” images within my posts, which looked awful (both because my images sucked – just being honest here – and because I wanted horizontal ones).
(3) No Bitly: I use the custom domain
nutsbolts.co to share links via Bitly, which provides tracking so I can see what kind of engagement I’m getting. Simple Share doesn’t provide an option to use Bitly links, so I could only track the number of people who shared and not whether people actually visited my site from that shared link.
Enter the Social Warfare Plugin
Awhile back I read about a new social sharing plugin called Social Warfare. It promised all kinds of amazing stuff, like increased traffic and social share counts, but it was also $24 per year for use on a single site. At the time, I didn’t see any reason to pay for a plugin (especially on an annual basis) when I had one that worked okay.
Last week I happened to see a share of one of my posts in a Facebook group, and that’s the moment everything changed. Not only did the image itself look terrible (totally my fault), but it was blurry, the description was wrong, and it wasn’t even the image I wanted to show.
I was tired of feeling like I had no control over the way my content looks when someone shares it.
I spent about an hour researching other options for sharing plugins. Many of them were either super bloated, super limited, or a combination of both. With its 60-day refund policy, Social Warfare suddenly seemed like a viable option.
What Social Warfare Does
Here’s what makes Social Warfare different from your average social sharing plugin:
- Design choices: At the time of this writing, there are six different styles for the sharing buttons with 14 color sets, including one that lets you choose a custom color to match your branding.
- Display options: You can choose whether to display the icons at the top or bottom of your posts (or both), but you can also enabled a floating bar at the top or bottom of the screen when someone is elsewhere on the screen.
- Control over counts: You can opt to display total shares, shares per network, or both. You can also hide the counts until you reach a certain number, which is handy if you don’t want people seeing zero shares.
- Bitly support: You can authorize Social Warfare to work with Bitly, or you can use their included wfa.re short domain if you want. This was a must have for me, though it may not be important to everyone.
- Speaking of support: I opened a ticket shortly after purchase to ask a question, but I mainly wanted to find out how quickly I’d get a response. A few hours later I had a friendly, helpful answer. Can’t ask for much more than that!
- Click to Tweet: I’m not a huge fan of this, but Social Warfare includes Click to Tweet functionality with 4 styles to choose from. If you’re using a plugin for social sharing and another for tweetables, you can get two for one.
- Analytics tracking: I suck at Google Analytics, so I haven’t figured this out yet, but you can also set up a campaign to track your social shares directly within Analytics.
- Frame buster: Randomly, the plugin has an option to prevent your content from being displayed inside a frame. I’ve never had that problem personally, but I’m sure some people would love this option.
- No bloat: Social Warfare uses an icon font and automatic caching based on the age of the post (counts on older posts update less often) to keep the buttons loading quickly on your site. My load times remained almost exactly the same with the plugin active versus no social sharing at all.
- In-post sharing options: I’m going to talk about this in more detail, but there are several options to force your social shares to do what they’re told. It’s my favorite thing about this plugin.
In-Post Sharing with Social Warfare
Let’s take a look at the options you have available when creating content with Social Warfare (click to view larger):
Different Images for Pinterest
This is a super big deal to me. I can use the horizontal images I want in my posts, but I can create a different image specifically for use on Pinterest. This new ability prompted me to go through every single post on this site, removing my sucky images and replacing them with (hopefully) better, more sharable ones. Result? Instant increase in Pinterest shares and Pinterest traffic.
To be fair, the Pinterest shares are probably higher because my images are better, but that never would have happened if I hadn’t had a place to upload an image specifically for pins. Even with the social options in WordPress SEO, I didn’t have a Pinterest option. So this was new and exciting.
My only complaint here is that, if you don’t use your Pinterest image in your actual post content, people who share without using the Social Warfare button (people who use a browser extension, for example) won’t see your Pinterest image as a sharing option. A minor issue, but still worth mentioning.
Custom Descriptions for Pinterest and Other Networks
Now I can choose a description to be used on Pinterest, as well as a separate one for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. This is way better than automatically using my meta description (or worse, an excerpt of the post) since I might want to tailor the share content based on the network.
Custom Tweet Text
Maybe I want tweeted shares to be different than the post title, or to contain a hashtag. Social Warfare lets me enter that custom text right in the post editor screen.
Ever try to tweet a post and the darn tweet is longer than Twitter’s 140-character limit? As a bonus, Social Warfare also tracks how many characters I’ve used to keep me from going over.
Per-Post Button Positioning
Maybe for some reason I don’t want to display my sharing buttons at the bottom of a particular post. For instance, maybe I’m running a giveaway or contest and want to make sure the buttons are easy to find. Social Warfare allows me to choose a custom location that applies only to that post if I want.
Social Warfare Rocks!
I never thought I’d find myself paying for a social sharing plugin. However, after spending some time with Social Warfare (and seeing a huge increase in social shares and traffic from social sites), I have no regrets. I’ll definitely be buying licenses for any future websites I own.
If you’re frustrated with your current sharing plugin and want more control, I highly recommend giving the Social Warfare plugin a try. I don’t endorse many plugins this enthusiastically, but this one is definitely worth a look!