WordPress classifies the social sharing under plugin territory. So free themes offered in WordPress repository will not have social sharing as a default feature. This basically helps developers to focus on developing plugins which can be used on all types of themes. But there are plenty of third party plugin developers eyeing on WordPress users to collect data from their sites. With growing big data market, social sharing plugins are the first ones interested in making money out of it. Hence, they collect the social sharing and traffic data from your site and sell it to third parties on the name of data aggregation services.
6 Factors to Check Before Using Social Sharing Plugin in WordPress
Here is the list of 6 factors to check before using social sharing plugin in WordPress, especially the free plugins.
1. Tracking Social Sharing Analysis
Whether you use AddToAny or AddThis or any other popular free social sharing plugin, all the traffic will be redirected through sites. This means every click on the social icons will first go to the plugin developer’s site and get recorded there before it is redirected to the social networking site.
Ideally all social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc., will have the share count of the articles internally. So there is no need for the developers to record all your social traffic. Below is the response from the Social Media Feather plugin author for the tracking issue from one of the users:
On top the tracking, your social sharing completely relies on the uptime of the developer’s site. If the developer’s site is down then your social sharing icons will throw “503 – Service Unavailable” error to users who click on the icons. Below is one of the user reviews from the popular AddToAny plugin indicating this issue.
2. Tracking Complete Traffic Data
Some plugins go beyond tracking social sharing and install tracking cookies. This will work like a Google Analytics and help the developer to track each and every visitor to your site.
Mostly they don’t mention about this tracking on the WordPress plugin page. You should read the terms and conditions carefully to find it will be mentioned somewhere in small words.
Also almost all free plugins need external account to be created with developer’s site. This is basically for collecting user profiles for data aggregation services and in turns offers the plugin for free in WordPress repository. Below is the user review for AddThis and you need to login to AddThis account and opt-out tracking to switch off the tracking. But how many of the users aware of this?
3. Popup Advertisements
Nowadays monetization is part of everything and social sharing plugins are not exception to that. Some of the plugins have popup and content recommendation advertisements as part of the package. The problem is that those annoying ads are enabled by default or accidentally. After installing the plugin, you need to login to the developer’s site and disable the monetization manually.
Below is the user review of one of the popular social sharing plugin Shareaholic indicating the ads are shown under the social buttons. You need to login to your account and disable the monetization to get rid of the ads.
4. Kills Page Speed
All kind of social sharing plugins need lot of resources to load like the icons, sharing links for each network. You can view your page’s source in the browser to see how much of code the sharing plugin has. Below is the complaint from one of the users for AddThis plugin:
It certain cases social sharing plugin will take more than a second in the page speed. This will really hurt the user experience especially on slow Internet connection.
5. Spam Code Insertion
Spam code does not mean malware. You can install the popular social sharing plugins on a testing site and check the page source. While some of the plugins have few lines of code others will have huge bunch of code to do the same stuff. This is generally referred as bloating and affects your site’s speed and user experience.
The additional code may do redirection and tracking kind of activities which you will never know. Below is a user complaint with example of redirects added by the Simple Share Buttons Adder plugin.
6. Restrictions on Free Version
Some free plugins like SumoMe focuses on promoting premium versions. When you look into their site, you will find the free version has monthly visits as limited. Even the pro version which costs $29 per month has monthly visits limit of only 5000. Below is one of the user review of SumoMe indicating they just try to upsell the premium plans through free version.
Plugins like AddThis has three separate plugins for sharing, follow and all in one which confuses normal users. Surprisingly some plugins offer limited social icons on free version and ask the users to upgrade for getting more options. So checkout the restrictions before choosing the free plugin for your site.
All of the free plugins what we have mentioned above are active installation on more than 100k sites. This does not really mean you also need to use that plugin. We recommend to read the single and two star reviews by users on the WordPress support forum. Most of the users complaint about privacy, redirection and tracking problems as we have mentioned above and not recommend using the plugin. Those who just look out the shining icons will give five stars and mislead others. Also read out the terms and condition when you have privacy concern to make sure what exactly the plugin does, what type of data is collected and the purpose of collecting data.
So checkout the paid plugins mostly offered outside WordPress repository which is not redirecting and tracking your traffic data.