Social bookmarking widgets have really helped reduce web page clutter.
It wasn’t that long ago that it was not uncommon to find bloggers putting a dozen different icons under their blog posts hoping people would click those buttons to spread their content across the web. But as the number of social sites increased on the internet, those many buttons were replaced with all-in-one widgets that not only offered more functionality, but were also easy to maintain.
The idea is that instead of confusing your site visitors with the icons of 16 different social bookmarking sites, you show them a single share icon and they can choose which social service they want to use to save, share. or bookmark your content.
Which Social Bookmarking & Sharing Widget is Right for Your Site?
Before you actually compare the functionality of these services, take a look at the graph above to get an idea of what these widgets look like. Or you can visit this dummy page and try one of these social sharing services.
AddThis gives you full control over the appearance and layout of the widget. You can arrange the icons in a single vertical column or put them in a horizontal strip or, if you’re comfortable with CSS, you can even go for more complex hover animations.
Design your own menu with AddThis
In addition to sharing your web pages on social networks, visitors to your site can also use the AddThis widget to print content or to bookmark the page in their browser.
AddThis provides several analytics reports so you know what content is being shared and which social services are most popular among your visitors. And there is also an option to add your brand name to the widget.
Almost all U.S. government websites (including the White House Blog) uses AddThis for social sharing.
One of the unique things about the ShareThis widget is that it remembers what you share. This means that if you vote for a story on Digg or share a link on Twitter or come across a page, the service will automatically save a log of all that activity to your ShareThis account. The share widget is available as a bookmark also and this is convenient for browsers like Google Chrome which do not support add-ons.
On the publisher side, ShareThis is the only service that will allow site visitors to share content via SMS in addition to email and AIM. Although the default appearance of the ShareThis widget cannot be changed, you can choose which social services should be available in the widget and their display order.
Like AddThis, ShareThis also provides in-depth analytics so you can find out what and how people are sharing.
There are at least 50 different social networks and bookmark websites on the internet, so how do you decide which services to include in your website’s sharing widget? For example, delicious is the most popular bookmarking service, but some of your visitors might also be using Diigo or Mister-Wong, so what do you do in that case? Show them both or flip a coin and pick one?
Well, the AddToAny button provides a great solution to this problem. The service automatically detects which social services your visitors are using and places them first in the widget. The detection mechanism is quite good and I guess it does this by reading the browser history of visitors.
Another advantage of AddToAny is that it automatically uses your Google Analytics account for reporting. This means that if you have the Google Analytics code on a page that also uses the Add to Any widget, that page’s sharing statistics will be collected just like your other Analytics data.
The layout of the Add to Any widget is not customizable, although advanced users can hide individual tabs or even change the color scheme using CSS hacks.
With Tell-a-Friend, your site visitors can share your content with their instant messaging friends on Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL and MSN / Windows Live Messenger. You can rearrange the order of the tabs in the widget and also choose which social services should be part of the individual tabs. The service also offers a paid option in case you want to personalize the widget and email with a custom logo.
For some reason, the TAF widget on the dummy page doesn’t work in IE 8 or Firefox 3.5 but I used the one from NDTV.com and their email sharing feature is pretty awesome.
All of the above mentioned services have something unique to offer. Here is what I would suggest:
If you are looking to heavily customize the widget or plan to use your own social bookmarking icons so that your site widget looks a little different from the rest, AddThis is a perfect choice.
If you want to give readers the ability to share content via text messages or need an extremely easy to configure and stylish widget, go with ShareThis.
The Add to Any widget is again a good choice as site visitors can see the service they frequently use at the top, but the email sharing feature of this widget will open in another window.
Tell-A-Friend is the only service that offers sharing through popular instant messaging clients, the widget also includes a rich HTML messaging client so that visitors can add notes to their shares, but the free version of TAF no This offers no analytics and the widget’s user interface can be a bit confusing for new users.
See also: The most useful add-ons for your blog