I just added "The Big Three" sharing buttons to articles on this site: Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook. I've shared my thoughts on sharing buttons like this in the past. I essentially decided that I didn't like them for this site. So before anybody skewers me for hypocrisy, I thought I'd go back through my old thoughts and refute myself.
Every website owner in the world wants more traffic, me included. Theoretically, if you put sharing buttons on your site, more people will share the article than would have otherwise, and there will be an increase in traffic to your site. I wrote in that article that I'd tried sharing buttons in the past and saw no significant up tick in traffic. That was true. I'm going to try it again and measure traffic more carefully. But traffic isn't the only factor here.
Regarding User Experience
My personal experience at the time of the last article had me a bit gun shy of clicking social sharing links. I was afraid something might be "auto-tweeted" on my behalf. When that happens, it makes feel like a stooge in front of my friends and I don't like it. I don't think anybody likes that, and the UX of these things has reflected that. I haven't had something auto-tweet for me in a long time.
I don't have any proof of this, but sharing buttons have become so ubiquitous that I think many users almost expect them to be there. In that regard, it's good to not break that expectation, especially when it's of benefit to both of us.
Regarding Which Sites
At the time, it was more common for sites to have a huge rack of sharing buttons. From the obvious big players, to stuff like Delicious and StumbleUpon, to every little trashy niche sharing site out there (e.g. DesignFloat). I was turned off by this and thought that even if I picked my favorites, that would change quickly and turn into a maintenance problem.
Today, I feel like Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook are the big three and probably will be for some time. I'm only going to use those three for this site. All three of them provide their own native sharing functionality, which I am using. So it's not this "click a link and be whooshed away to some generic sharing URL", it's the native experience.
Like anything else, done poorly, sharing buttons can be an eyesore. For my first iteration, I'm just putting them at the bottom of the article in little boxes that go with the other things in that area (Screenshot). Hey I'm not going to win any design awards but I think they work with the design just fine.
Regarding Page Speed
I'm hoping that because I'm using the standard button scripts that all three of these social sites provide, that they will very likely be in users browser cache and thus not affect page speed much. I know that doesn't help mobile out much, where caching isn't nearly as robust. All told, this will slow down the site a bit, I'm just hoping it's not drastic. If it becomes a problem, they'll have to go, speed is a deal-breaker.
I Like Liking Things
I actually use and enjoy all three of these social networks. And I like how each of them has done their unique versions of liking things. For Google Plus, I just click the little +1 button and it feels good. I've shown a bit of appreciation for that content, I can find it again more easily if I lose track of it by going through my old +'s, and other people might see it who are interested in things I +. With just a single click and no big break in my concentration. One of the big motivations for adding these buttons is because I like using them on other people's sites. I want to be able to do it on my own, too.
It's just a test
In a month or so I'll revisit this and see how things have gone. I can see exactly what happens to traffic by comparing pre-November-17th traffic to post. Nothing on the web is permanent. If things are good, they stay, if not, they go.
For comparison's sake, the last ten articles on this site saw an average of 210 tweets, 38 +1s, and 39 Likes. That will be good to compare a month from now. (You know, assuming the content quality doesn't change dramatically =))