For years you’ve been hearing that you need to have social sharing buttons on your product pages. After all, almost everyone has an account to either Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or some other social media outlet. In fact, 84% of  of online shoppers use at least one social media site.

If you don’t have social sharing buttons, how will anyone ever know your product exists? And what if a customer wants to share? They will have to manually copy the URL and paste it in to their social media outlet.

You’ve also likely heard that your site really needs social sharing buttons, but is this really true?  Or do they just distract a user?

The Test

Taloon.com is a Finland-based hardware eCommerce store that sells plumbing, electrical, gardening, and other construction supplies. They wanted more clicks on their product pages’ main call to action, the Add To Cart button. Who doesn’t, right?

Instead of just making guesses, they ran an A/B test. They decided to have one page with their social media buttons and the other without.

Here’s what the page looked like with social media buttons.

social sharing buttons

And here is Taloon without social media buttons

social sharing buttons

So what were the results? There was an 11.9% increase in Add To Cart clicks on the page without the social media buttons.

There was an 11.9% increase in Add To Cart clicks on the page without the social media buttons Click To Tweet

There are two main reasons why social media buttons didn’t work for Taloon.

1. Negative Social Proof

The higher the number of shares a product has, the better. This is positive reinforcement. However, according to Taloon, the number of shares on their product pages were zero. This psychologically makes it seem to people that the products were low quality and made the site seem untrustworthy.

2. Distraction From The Main Goal

Every merchant wants a visitor to convert into a customer by clicking the add to cart button. The problem with social media buttons is that they distract from this.

There should always only be one clear call to action, Taloon had five:

  • Add To Cart
  • Pinterest
  • Google +
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

These were clearly distracting the customer from just adding products to the cart.

Social share buttons can distract the customer from adding products to the cart Click To Tweet

Test 2

Kuno Creative, a marketing company, wanted to see if social media buttons helped improve conversion or if they hindered it. They ran two different tests.

Adequate Social Proof

For the first test, they pitted an existing landing page that already had adequate social proof against the same landing page but without the social media buttons.

With over 500 conversions, they found that the landing page with the already adequate social proof had a slightly better conversion rate, 9%, than the landing page without the social media buttons.

social sharing buttons

Inadequate Social Proof

For the second test, they tested a landing page with almost no social shares against a landing page without any social media buttons. The test however had only 67 conversions so the results were not too significant. With that said, the landing page without the social media buttons converted about 2% better.

social sharing buttons

Conclusion

Kuno was torn as to which is really better. Social or no social. On one hand, social media buttons that showed lots of shares converted better but if the numbers were not high enough, they wouldn’t convert as well. They then concluded that what you should really be doing is testing!

Related posts:  9 Google Analytics Intelligence Events Your eCommerce Site Needs

Does Social Proof Matter?

Both test 1 and 2 show that more often than not, even with adequate social proof, pages without social media buttons seem to convert better.

Neil Patel says “Social proof isn’t always the best proof – you would think that social proof helps boost conversion rates, but it doesn’t always work that way.”

According to Forrester most people, in the US and Europe, land in the “spectator” category meaning they consume social media content but they don’t share it.

And this stat from Venture Beat tells us less than 30% of social sharing comes from social media buttons. Venture Beat also states that 41% of baby boomers, age 55-64, are more likely to engage with a brands content, while only 19% of millennials want to engage. In fact, Millennials are the least likely generational group to engage with shared content with brands.

social sharing buttons

When people are on social media, their intent is to share. If they’re on Facebook and see an interesting article, they’ll share it. Instagram, they’ll take pictures and share them. But it’s different with online shopping, people aren’t there to share, their there to shop. So, when someone sees the social media buttons, they don’t have the same urge to share.

I took a look at some of the best converting eCommerce stores out there, according to Conversion IQ, to see whether or not they had social sharing buttons. Most of the stores did have social sharing buttons, but I noticed a trend. Most were small, tucked away, didn’t show the amount of shares and didn’t distract from the Add To Cart buttons.

See Below Left To Right: Nasty Gal, Zappos, Free People, Crate & Barrel

social sharing buttons

However, this does not mean that the conversion rates of these sites have anything to do with the social sharing buttons. Perhaps if they removed the buttons the sites would convert even more.

One last study to consider is from Sam Solomon, entrepreneur and web designer. He interviewed Jennifer Dewault, a woman who taught herself how to code by building 180 websites in 180 days. A pretty remarkable accomplishment that gained quite a bit of recognition and became one of the most popular posts on his site, with more than 100 shares.

What’s interesting about the shares is that not one of them came from the social media buttons that were on the page. At first he thought there must be some sort of bug relating to his in-page analytics, it was showing that the buttons had not been touched in the month since the interview has been published. But, it was not a bug, people just weren’t using the buttons to share.

Verdict

Social sharing buttons on product pages are starting to get a bad rap. They seem to distract a visitor from doing one of the most crucial things a merchant wants, add the product to the cart.  The best way to find out if this is happening to you is to test. And always remember that social sharing buttons should be an accent, not the main attraction.