Social sharing all-in-one tools

Social sharing has come a long way in so little time. Just a couple of years ago the concept of ‘viral’ or ‘widgets’ didn’t exist, and webmasters/publishers were happy just cross-linking to each other’s content, getting ‘contras’, asking to be listed in a directory, etc. But ever since the first ‘Digg’ icon showed up (or ‘tell a friend’, I forget what started it), the idea of letting people share and bookmark their favourite web destinations has grown into a separate web industry. Hundreds of widgets, thousands of chiclets (those little icons you see everywhere), and we’re all sharing, passing on, pushing the content further.

An early favourite of mine was addthis.com. It had a single graphic the opened up a pop-up window with multiple services where your visitors could share instantly with any of the popular bookmarking services. A single JavaScript file, and you’re all done. Convenient, easy to maintain, multiple destinations – a dream for a publisher. Then came along sharethis.com. Same idea, emphasis on ‘tell a friend’ email function, ability to shuffle/customize the different services, and a tracking mechanism to see how many times the widget was served, how many times your content was shared, and which exact pages were shared. Their interface also allowed multiple domains to be tracked and managed, stats and everything. That’s when I switched over.

Over the last couple of years many similar services have emerged. Some still use separate chiclets, others rely on a single widget to combine and track them. Publishers have spent a lot of time analyzing and optimizing those chiclets: is Digg getting us higher numbers than Newsvine? Should we separate Friendster from FriendFind? Can we trust an external email forwarding provider? It all comes down to numbers and your goals. If you can just drop a single line of code into every web page, and see dozens, hundreds of new visitors arrive via shared articles, if you’re satisfied with a single point of reporting and tracking, for multiple sites you own, then keep using an ‘all-in-one’ solution.

I’m personally sticking with sharethis.com for a little longer. They just updated their base code (the Javascript is much lighter, and loads faster), and their widget is more customizable – you’re no longer stuck with a little green bar and three dots on it (what is it anyway, a molecule?) You now can modify each of the most popular sharing chiclets, make them into larger icons, re-order them – and still have a single Javascript file that you drop in your code, and let the visitors do the sharing for you.

There will be other services, better, faster, but for a freebie so powerful, sharethis.com is pretty good. What are your ‘all-in-one’ sharing tools? Got a recommendation?

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