Plugins: Social Bookmarking

Tonight, @chrisbrogan asked for a *really* simple stumbleupon plugin instead of addthis/sharethis. I had been meaning to write a review of social bookmarking plugins, but what interested me more was his reference to research that says the “paradox of choice” actually cuts down on people using those bookmarking tools.

I haven’t seen the research, but I was discussing this same theory with Justin Kownacki at a recent Refresh Pittsburgh meeting. In my own blog reading, I find that I’m more likely to click on a bookmarking link if I’m given only one or two options than if I’m faced with an overwhelming choice of bookmarking sites.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “paradox of choice”, you can read The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, or scan the reviews. If you’re wondering what I mean by social bookmarking plugins, I’m talking about those image or text links at the end of a blog post to add/share/bookmark that post on social bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon and many others:

Bookmarkify

The Criteria

Link Options

In Chris‘s case, he only wants a link to StumbleUpon, which gives him the most traffic. Since he knows where people are finding his content, he wants to support them there. And since readers are more likely to click one link than two, he wants to drive his traffic to the best service rather than split it between several, or lose them to overwhelming choice.

“More” Link

However, some readers may have a preferred bookmarking site that differs from the author’s, so my criteria for a social bookmarking plugin is going to include the option to add to other services — a “more” link.

Customization

As a designer, a second criterion of mine is customization — whether through the plugin’s settings or my theme’s CSS and PHP code — since I don’t want the plugin to look the same on all of my site designs. In Chris’s case, he wants a big fat simple button. Since most social bookmarking plugins use small icons, this will probably need to be a custom graphic.

News Feed

Another consideration may be whether the plugin adds links to the blog’s feed or just to the site. I know that FeedBurner’s FeedFlare™ is added to both, but its text images are not customizable, nor aesthetically pleasing IMO.

The Plugins

To find the best social bookmarking plugin based on these criteria, I used Mashable’s30+ Plugins to Make Your WordPress Blog More Social” as a guide. I chose nine plugins based on that list, and review them here in alphabetical order:

  1. Bookmarkify met all of my criteria.
  2. Bookmark Me includes an impressive list of international sites, but does not have a “more” option, nor does it add links to RSS feeds.
  3. I Love Social Bookmarking displays links in a drop down menu to save on load time. The settings provide good customization from within the admin panel, but to remove the plugin’s logo from your site, you will need to edit the image or your CSS. No RSS or “more” options.
  4. obsocialbookmarker was annoying just to install, and wasn’t any easier to set up. The filter which displays services by country seemed nifty, but only gave me three choices for USA. The International option let me choose “Stumble it”, but the rest of the customization options left much to be desired. No RSS or “more” options.
  5. Sociable allows ordering of site links, something I hadn’t yet considered, but no “more” link.
  6. Social Bookmarking RELOADED was a little difficult to customize, partly because I had to manually un-click each site link that I did not want. No “more” link or RSS feed options made me UNLOAD this one.
  7. Social Bookmarks is the plugin that Social Bookmarking RELOADED was based off of, but with different icons. I prefer RELOADED, but would not choose either plugin.
  8. SociBook was confusing to set up, and only partly because of the broken English. Customization through the administration panel is limited, but it does provide an easy way to use custom icons. There are no RSS or “more” options, and I couldn’t get the plugin to work on my test site (WordPress version 2.6.2).
  9. SocioFluid has a cool factor because it keeps the icons small until the reader mouses over them, similar to the Mac taskbar. A decent amount of customization can be done in the settings page, but no RSS or “more” options, and the plugin didn’t work correctly on my test site.

So which plugin is best?

Unsurprisingly, I found Bookmarkify best met my criteria. It has an excellent selection of links, including the requisite “more” link, and also a link to share the post by email. Most of the plugins I tested include the most popular social bookmarking sites, but if you need a less common site, you may need to find a specific plugin that includes it.

By default, Bookmarkify’s code is included in the RSS, but you can check a box to exclude it from the feed. As far as customization, Bookmarkify’s settings page provides the choice of placement at either the top or bottom of posts, or a custom option which requires template modification. The settings also list all of the relevant style classes to customize with CSS — these do not include the More Box, but by viewing the site code you can find out these classes easily. And since the images are all hosted in the blog’s plugins folder, they can be customized.

The only feature that this plugin lacks is the ability to chose where to display its code within the blog, such as single posts, single pages, home page, excerpts, archives etc. The settings page does offer the PHP code to call the plugin, so presumably this can be achieved by editing the theme’s template pages.

I’ve activated Bookmarkify on this blog, as seen below.