Add-to-Any WordPress Plug-in: Sharing Made Easy

Writers have been learning the importance of “shameless self-promotion” for over a decade, but it’s still more comfortable for many of us to promote other people than to toot our own horns.

Oh, we’re learning – but that doesn’t make it “comfortable.” It’s not really our “happy place.” Most authors would prefer to have a small army of publicists – employed by a well-known publisher – to tout their literary virtues. As we discover the benefits of small press and self-publishing, we also learn that we must have an entire new wardrobe of interchangeable hats: author, editor, book designer, illustrator, marketing pro, speaker, blogger, social media maven – in addition to whatever hats we wear in other careers and our personal lives. One of my favorite, well-worn hats: Exhausted Reader Curled Up Under the Covers.

In addition to buying our books, readers can help their favorite authors and other bloggers by being part of our volunteer PR corps. One of the easiest things to do is to share entertaining or informative blog posts.

Making It Easy to Share

What are some of the biggest reasons readers don’t share posts?

They didn’t see the post. This is where “shameless self-promotion” is a must. If you throw a party but don’t send out any invitations, what’s going to happen? Bloggers and writers need to get over their squeamishness when it comes to self-promotion. I’ve rarely heard anyone complain about my advertising my blog or my books; more often than not, someone I’ve known a long time will say, “Wait, you’re a writer? These are your books? Wow, I had no idea. I’m impressed.” That’s often followed by, “How can I buy a copy of your book?” and a fresh new order placed on Amazon.com.

They didn’t see sharing buttons or any “call to action.” Sometimes, you need to ask. “Please, if you like this post (or any of the others on my blog), share it widely and often!” And sometimes, you just need to make the means to share it much more obvious. To that end, I’ve installed the Add-to-Any plug-in. Add-to-Any is a popular plug-in with over 300,000 installions. It is arguably the most popular sharing plug-in for WordPress, and now features on of those “crawlers” up the left side of your screen, making the sharing buttons almost impossible to miss. But in case my readers do miss them as the buttons slide up and down while scrolling through a post, there’s another set of buttons at the bottom, just above the comments section.

They didn’t know if it was okay to share. Sometimes, we can come across as real sticklers for copyright, and need to make it clear that we really do want people to share, just not to copy, paste, and call our work their own! We need to get them to think of it as “tipping the waiter” at their favorite restaurant – provided he didn’t spill soup on their laps!

They didn’t like the post or think anyone in their social circles would find it interesting. You win some, you lose some. Just as not every reader likes every book an author ever wrote, not every reader will think every post is worth sharing. But most readers don’t realize that comments and sharing are worth more than a quick “Like” here or on Facebook. It’s not like stamp collecting – to be perfectly blunt, all writers want more readers, not more stars, thumbs’ ups, or hearts.

It took too much effort. Do you call your customers – your readers – “lazy,” or do you examine your user interface with a gimlet eye and unflinching critical analysis, and think, “How can I make it hard not to share this?” The Add-to-Any plug-in certainly helps! I would never call my readers “lazy,” but I’ve just made it hard to pretend they couldn’t find the sharing buttons! And it’s just a click or two and they’re done. This blog is  a brief line or two about why you think your friends will also like the post helps to catch their eye, as well.

Installing Plug-ins in WordPress (Self-Hosted)

From the Dashboard menu, select Plugins > Add New:

wordpress-add-plugins

On the Add New Plugins page, there is a search box. Enter the sort of plug-in you’re looking for; in this case, sharing or sharing buttons.

wordpress-sharing-plugins

Look for plug-ins that have many users and are highly rated. Newer, little known plugins may be excellent, too, but be sure to carefully read the reviews. In this case, I read the 1-star reviews and based my decision on the prompt, courteous responses from the plug-in’s authors. Any product will have its detractors, but not all bad ratings and reviews are fair or accurate in placing the blame on a particular thing. An engaged plug-in author who expresses an interest in learning more about their users’ problems gives me much more confidence than an author who doesn’t respond quickly or responds to criticism with defensiveness or disinterest. I’ve also used this plug-in in the past, many years ago – it’s been around a long time and has gained credibility through widespread use and my own personal experience.

Keep in mind that few plug-ins are perfect; you may have conflicts between plugins, forcing you to turn all of them off, then back on one-by-one until the problem recurs, then you’ll have to make hard choices as to which to keep and which to get rid of. When a thing is free, I try not to complain too much!

Add-to-Any Buttons

Did you think I’d leave you non-WordPress readers out in the cold, here? Add-to-Any is available for all the following platforms:

Add to Any Sharing Buttons are available for many platforms in addition to WordPress.

I’m still using JetPack Publicize to automate sharing of posts to my blog’s Facebook page, my personal Google+ site, Twitter, and Tumblr. But I have turned off the Publicize sharing buttons, since Add-to-Any offers more of them, and they are more visually appealing, as well. No need to have multiple sets of similar sharing buttons – though I’ve seen this on other blogs. It gets confusing and may actually discourage readers from sharing, as they wonder “Which buttons am I supposed to use?”

Design Considerations: Bright, Obvious, but Not Tacky

Speaking of “visually appealing,” you want to make sure that the plugins you install function flawlessly, enhance your readers’ experience, make it easy for readers to do what you want them to do (share! share! share some more!), and don’t get in the way or look ugly. I’d tried out various plug-ins, over the years, to implement that sharing button “crawler” up the side. Some were huge! Garishly ugly. Some followed you around like an eager puppy, bouncing up and down as they did so. The thing I hated about most of them was their use of differently sized site icons.

Call me nit-picky, but having buttons of varying heights and widths – some with and without share stats counters – was distracting and off-putting. I figured, if it bothered me, it would bother readers, too. So this is the first one I’ve found that didn’t annoy me.

I chose not to share it unless the screen resolution or window width was over 900 pixels, so the sidebar “crawler” may not be visible on mobile devices or on all displays, and that’s okay. You can see how this works by narrowing your current browser window to about a third of the width of your screen, if you’re on a PC, or by viewing the site on a mobile phone. Have you ever visited a site where that sharing button bar covered over half the content that you were interested in reading in the first place? That shouldn’t happen here. Though you may not see the “crawler,” the buttons at the bottom of each post still show up, and there are more options than there were before.

Conclusion & Call to Action

To encourage readers to join the “PR Corps,” make it easy to share your posts, your social media links, your book launch news, or your Amazon Author Page – or better yet, make it hard not to share. Toward that end, I installed the Add-to-Any plugin. Ultimately, it’s a design decision and you may find one you like even better; when I searched for sharing plug-ins, I found 2,635 results for self-hosted WordPress, alone. Blogger users can easily implement Add-to-Any, but there are other choices – perhaps the built-in options will suit you just as well. Word of mouth – or click of the finger – is still the best advertising. Whatever you do, don’t make readers jump through flaming hoops to help you get the word out.

Finally, will you help me to get the word out? Try those Add-to-Any sharing buttons – either the ones at the bottom of this post, or the ones that hang out on the left side of your screen – and share this post with your friends on any of the social media networks shown.

Bonus

I haven’t played an April Fool’s Day prank on anyone since that time I tied dental floss around the kitchen sink sprayer and stood behind my husband while he turned the water on full blast – the hose rose up a foot and sprayed me in the face. At least I got points for trying. Anyway, I’m not going to pull any pranks on you, but Google probably will – go see what they’re up to this year. For a taste of past years’ shenanigans, take a look at this list of Google April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Did you know that GMail, itself, was one of the first?

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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20 thoughts on “Add-to-Any WordPress Plug-in: Sharing Made Easy”

  1. Your new sharing buttons look great! One quibble, though – the Twitter sharing function doesn’t include your Twitter handle. Most people wouldn’t bother adding it manually, but I will, so you’ll know I’ve done so and be suitably grateful. 😉 This post is brimming with excellent advice and I hope you get lots of traffic. Enjoy the challenge!
    Debbie D recently posted…A is for AIREDALE TERRIER | #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

      1. I tried that, and it sort of works – but ends up DOUBLING parts of the title and making the tweet way too long. Right now, it doesn’t show the title at all – just the link and my @name, which is also weird. I may revert to the default for now, and hope folks take the time to do what you did. If they don’t, the only thing it hurts is my analytics (and ability to say “thanks” if I don’t see it). The way it is WITHOUT the title is probably a worse user experience all around. :/ I still like the buttons, though. I’ll keep trying to figure it out. (I think it’s a combination of the button default and my SEO titles.)
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Add-to-Any WordPress Plug-in: Sharing Made EasyMy Profile

  2. Very interesting post. I found your point about readers thinking they weren’t supposed to share particularly interesting. I hadn’t thought about that before.

    I’m on Blogger and don’t really do anything with share buttons. I think I have some default ones somewhere on my blog, but don’t really know much about them or if my readers find them easy to use. Something to investigate!

    Cheers – Ellen | http://thecynicalsailor.blogspot.com/2016/04/a-is-for-anchor-nancy-drew-investigates.html

    1. Good morning, Ellen! I enjoyed the start of your Nancy Drew mystery (and the back story!). Thanks for visiting my blog. It’s funny how we can get so caught up in the blogging mindset that we forget not all of our readers blog. I always liked those sharing buttons on Blogger, because they were small, tasteful, unobtrusive, and standard. Standard is good, because once we expect to see a thing in a particular place and know what it is, it’s easy to use. I’m STILL thrown off by blogs that have their comments buried behind a link and the link’s up under the title or date of the post. I know to look there first, now, when I can’t find a place to leave a comment – but it still throws me. I’m much less likely to leave one there. But back to the Blogger buttons – they’re faint and gray. If it weren’t for that bright red G+, who’d notice them if they (a) didn’t already expect to see them right there; or (b) weren’t specifically LOOKING FOR THEM? It doesn’t exactly urge anyone to share – it’s just kind of, “Hey, if you feel like doing the sharing thing, I’ve put these little buttons here for your convenience.”

      One of the things that was finally (FINALLY!!! OMG, fine, I get it!!) driven home to me while writing some of this series of posts is that there are several things at play in my design decisions:

      – What looks good to me (pretty, tasteful, aesthetically pleasing) but may not be the best user experience (hey, gray text on black seemed cool at the time, right?)
      – What’s common sense or intuitive knowledge, but may be completely wrong in real world practice (much of the blogging advise and wisdom “out there” – including some I’ve spouted in the past, and even some I cling to like I’ll die if you pry it out of my brain)
      – What’s data driven and proven to work (sometimes harder to come by and may involve a bit of trial and error – and cold, objective measurement – to determine whether it works for someone else)

      Adding Add to Any was a bit of a compromise. I’ve used other button plug-ins in the past, but either they were butt-ugly and didn’t go with my overall “look and feel” AT ALL, or they degraded performance and made for a bad user experience. The ones that come from JetPack are okay, but limited (I did write a post a while back on how to add StumbleUpon – but I never got the icon to look quite right next to the others, and that was bugging me from an aesthetic standpoint). Add to Any had a nice, complete set. And I know those sidebar “crawlers” work. (If you view this site on a mobile phone, you shouldn’t see that bar up the side of the screen, either – because it’s large and would take up too-valuable screen real estate. I thought that was a nice touch, that the folks who designed Add to Any had thought to build that in as a customizable option.)

      I see you have the Add This follow buttons; you might look into their sharing buttons, too. You could always add the standard ones back, if it doesn’t work for you.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Add-to-Any WordPress Plug-in: Sharing Made EasyMy Profile

    1. I saw that! Sounds like you’re dealing with some challenges I don’t envy. (hug) I know you know how to find your way back if you have time and need of the info, later! Thank you for sharing.

      BTW, you fell into the moderation queue this time for a couple of reasons (but I’ll whitelist you now and that shouldn’t happen again): (1) No Gravatar; (2) I think this is the first time you’ve commented on my blog! How is that even possible? Well, I’ve told the Bouncer you’re good people; next time, you shouldn’t have any trouble.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Amazon Author CentralMy Profile

  3. You most definitely are my go-to lady for the how-to information when I’m befuddled with online options. I always find your posts not only interesting, but wonderfully helpful!
    Great A word/phrase for this challenge!

  4. Thanks for the info! Rushing to take daughter out, but will be back to try the Add To Any. Even with the A-Z, day 2 and you’re No. 40 I’ve visited, at least half a dozen have no comments section, which is a shame.

    1. NO comments section??? Okay, maybe you’re getting thrown off by the placement of it – that, or you need to send me some examples. Before you do, go see if there’s a little link under the date, maybe – or near the title, at the top, not at the bottom where you’d expect to see them – on some of the other ones that appear to have no comments. (You might have to use the page search feature to look for the word “comment.”) I think that placement is just bizarre – I’ve been blogging since around 1998 or 1999, and never get used to it being there. Sure discourages you from leaving any!

  5. Interesting and well written. I’m not a blogger (yet), but I’m interested in the craft and may try my hand at it. The share buttons seem like a great idea. I shared you on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t have much of a following, so probably won’t lead to a deluge of new visitors/readers, but who knows. One small pebble can make a lot of ripples.

    1. “One pebble can make a lot of ripples.” Indeed it can. Thank you, Bob. Do give blogging a try! It’s fun. Don’t let it eat all your time and your brain – but enjoy it. Hey, no time like right now during the A to Z challenge to give it a go. Start a blog, comment on the MANY blogs participating, and before long, you’ll have a following. Takes about 10 minutes to set up a blog (it’s like chess – 15 minutes to learn, a lifetime to master). Let me know when you post your first post – I’d be honored to be the first to share it!
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Blog: Holodeck for the Author’s BrainMy Profile

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