Why I Hate Social Bookmarklets & Proof They Don’t Work

In Social Media & Online PR, The Digital Marketing Blog by Kelvin32 Comments

The social media bookmarklet has become a de-facto element in most new website designs. And while I love social media and think it can have some huge benefits for websites; I think including social bookmarklets like AddThis to a new web build by default is at best laziness and at worse symptomatic of a complete misunderstanding of how social media works.

From Flickr

So after I went off on a bit of rant about them in the office I thought I needed an experiment to prove my point.

I chose the bookmarklet tool from AddThis and using Yahoo Site Explorer I found some websites using the tool.

To get a random selection of websites I picked the website ranked 1, 101, 201 etc on SiteExplorer all the way to 1001. The idea was for the websites to be of mixed quality, as it would have been too easy to choose rubbish websites and try and make my case with those sites.

For each of these sites using the book mark tool I tested there presence on Digg & Delicious to see if to some extent the bookmarklets were working, then finally on stumbleupon (which isn’t included on addthis bookmarklet by default) to ascertain whether the sites in question would have gained their votes without the bookmarklet.

bookmarklets.gif

While some of the sites did okay on Digg & delicious, the fact all the sites had gained some traction on stumbleupon without being featured in the bookmarklet suggest to me that they had little or no positive influence.

So before you start adding lots of little buttons to your site understand they are not an elixir. What’s really important in terms of social media success is creativity, killer titles, understanding your audience, timing and to a certain extent good luck.

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Comments

  1. Amen. Thank you and good night.

    Social chiklets are chiklitter. I find them to be most poignant when a page about, oh, say, industrial grade ball bearing lubricants, features a digg this button…

    Google this…
    Social Link Spam and Cigarette Butts
    Written two years ago.

  2. Amen. Thank you and good night.

    Social chiklets are chiklitter. I find them to be most poignant when a page about, oh, say, industrial grade ball bearing lubricants, features a digg this button…

    Google this…
    Social Link Spam and Cigarette Butts
    Written two years ago.

  3. too right eric, people need to realise just because it’s easy to add chicklets doesn’t mean they should

  4. too right eric, people need to realise just because it’s easy to add chicklets doesn’t mean they should

  5. Nice test Kelvin!

    I have used social bookmarklets on a few sites and they have had little effect. I think that if a visitor uses any of the social bookmarking sites, they also know how to add a bookmark for any webpage, not only those who has a button saying “bookmark this”. If the content is bookmarkable it will get bookmarked anyway. For the visitors that has no idea what (social) bookmarking is, the bookmarklets may be a distraction that actually drives the visitor away from the page.

    It would be nice to know if the bookmarks added came from the buttons or are added by other means. Don’t know if any of the “add this” bookmarklets logs the usage, if not I will write one that does.

    Thanks for a good post.

  6. Nice test Kelvin!

    I have used social bookmarklets on a few sites and they have had little effect. I think that if a visitor uses any of the social bookmarking sites, they also know how to add a bookmark for any webpage, not only those who has a button saying “bookmark this”. If the content is bookmarkable it will get bookmarked anyway. For the visitors that has no idea what (social) bookmarking is, the bookmarklets may be a distraction that actually drives the visitor away from the page.

    It would be nice to know if the bookmarks added came from the buttons or are added by other means. Don’t know if any of the “add this” bookmarklets logs the usage, if not I will write one that does.

    Thanks for a good post.

  7. Counterpoint…

    Bookmarklet links and widgets are a “call to action” and serve as both an easy reminder and an easy means for site visitors to share or bookmark a site.

    What’s wrong with easy? Let me play devil’s advocate here…

    This page has your phone number on it in two different places. Aren’t visitors smart enough to click on your “Contact” link and get your number there?

    I bookmark articles all of the time in Delicious so I can categorize and store them for future reference and pass them on to friends and colleagues. That sounds like social media to me.

  8. Counterpoint…

    Bookmarklet links and widgets are a “call to action” and serve as both an easy reminder and an easy means for site visitors to share or bookmark a site.

    What’s wrong with easy? Let me play devil’s advocate here…

    This page has your phone number on it in two different places. Aren’t visitors smart enough to click on your “Contact” link and get your number there?

    I bookmark articles all of the time in Delicious so I can categorize and store them for future reference and pass them on to friends and colleagues. That sounds like social media to me.

  9. @Erik, as a call to action the add this chicklet/bookmarklet def has some value, but in many ways it’s still useless.

    If gives them fifteen or so options to bookmark on surely that’s diluting it’s value (what percentage of your readers use newsvine?)

    And still most users will have no clue what they are for, for many websites it’s like using a television advert to promote your website in 1989.

    And when you delicious items is it because you use, value and understand delicious or because of a little tool which you have to hoover over reminding you?

  10. @Erik, as a call to action the add this chicklet/bookmarklet def has some value, but in many ways it’s still useless.

    If gives them fifteen or so options to bookmark on surely that’s diluting it’s value (what percentage of your readers use newsvine?)

    And still most users will have no clue what they are for, for many websites it’s like using a television advert to promote your website in 1989.

    And when you delicious items is it because you use, value and understand delicious or because of a little tool which you have to hoover over reminding you?

  11. As a call to action the “add this” class of multiple bookmarks in a pop up box probably do dilute the value, but what about a site that preselect a half dozen or so bookmarklets for individual services based on where they have been bookmarked most often by their readership and displays just those icons?

    I suspect that the results might be a little different in that case.Which drive home the point that doing it the easy way is rarely doing it the good way.

  12. As a call to action the “add this” class of multiple bookmarks in a pop up box probably do dilute the value, but what about a site that preselect a half dozen or so bookmarklets for individual services based on where they have been bookmarked most often by their readership and displays just those icons?

    I suspect that the results might be a little different in that case.Which drive home the point that doing it the easy way is rarely doing it the good way.

  13. spot on dane, if you’ve understood the overlap in audiences and think you’re of a certain quality they can give you a good bump.

    Can’t argue with that.

    In fact there’s a good digg plugin for example only appears if you’ve had a set number of votes.

    My problem is the no thought addition of social bookmarks

  14. spot on dane, if you’ve understood the overlap in audiences and think you’re of a certain quality they can give you a good bump.

    Can’t argue with that.

    In fact there’s a good digg plugin for example only appears if you’ve had a set number of votes.

    My problem is the no thought addition of social bookmarks

  15. I’m happy with my “Share This” plugin for WordPress. It’s small, unobtrusive, covers many referral processes (including email), and appears at the bottom of each post.

    The rotating icon might be a little annoying but I don’t feel that it clutters the page or overshadows any content.

  16. I’m happy with my “Share This” plugin for WordPress. It’s small, unobtrusive, covers many referral processes (including email), and appears at the bottom of each post.

    The rotating icon might be a little annoying but I don’t feel that it clutters the page or overshadows any content.

  17. I guess in theory they’re OK on blogs like this where people know what they mean and might actually use the bookmark services but i question their usage on sites like the BBC where the audience is so diverse in their abilities these buttons will confuse many.

    The big problem I have with them is they get stuck onto sites without tracking to see whether they’re being used.

    Nice rant Kelvin;-)

  18. I guess in theory they’re OK on blogs like this where people know what they mean and might actually use the bookmark services but i question their usage on sites like the BBC where the audience is so diverse in their abilities these buttons will confuse many.

    The big problem I have with them is they get stuck onto sites without tracking to see whether they’re being used.

    Nice rant Kelvin;-)

  19. And a third voice from the SV perspective. Buttons of any description are imho a complete waste of space unless there is an active user community for that particular subject in the social media space. That space in turn needs to be inhabited by the operator of the same site. These guys with their ball bearings just make themselves look silly. Once upon a time to sell a product you needed to make a good product. Now you first need to demonstrate to the consumer that you understand the medium – the net – first. If you don’t it will hit sales and damage the brand. I carry a mental list of blue chips who I simply will not deal with. Their lack of net savviness makes me question all their brand values. This is very big business for us all potentially. Traditional design / graphics led agencies just don’t cut it. I call it integrated net communications. Search Engine awareness / SEO is a big part of that but the real deliverables are highly qualified traffic and dominating the user space in that particular field. That requires creative thinking and innovative clients. [Rant ends] lol……………..

  20. And a third voice from the SV perspective. Buttons of any description are imho a complete waste of space unless there is an active user community for that particular subject in the social media space. That space in turn needs to be inhabited by the operator of the same site. These guys with their ball bearings just make themselves look silly. Once upon a time to sell a product you needed to make a good product. Now you first need to demonstrate to the consumer that you understand the medium – the net – first. If you don’t it will hit sales and damage the brand. I carry a mental list of blue chips who I simply will not deal with. Their lack of net savviness makes me question all their brand values. This is very big business for us all potentially. Traditional design / graphics led agencies just don’t cut it. I call it integrated net communications. Search Engine awareness / SEO is a big part of that but the real deliverables are highly qualified traffic and dominating the user space in that particular field. That requires creative thinking and innovative clients. [Rant ends] lol……………..

  21. @Simon, great points, especially regarding site operator inhabited social media space. And I learned a new acronym! (imho = in my humble opinion)

  22. @Simon, great points, especially regarding site operator inhabited social media space. And I learned a new acronym! (imho = in my humble opinion)

  23. Now this is where it gets sticky. Because in the social space the thought leaders are individuals not companies. It is difficult for corporates to develop that presence effectively. Plus what happens if an employee moves? Increasingly when folk like us are head hunted we are taking all our online assets eg portfolio, reputation and links in the social space with us.

  24. Now this is where it gets sticky. Because in the social space the thought leaders are individuals not companies. It is difficult for corporates to develop that presence effectively. Plus what happens if an employee moves? Increasingly when folk like us are head hunted we are taking all our online assets eg portfolio, reputation and links in the social space with us.

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  27. Social bookmarking of all your articles or pages does help bring traffic to your site. Some of my articles get better exposure from Digg, Delicious or Stumble Upon than any other way. So, I think it depends on your purpose and what you’re trying to accomplish with your blog. Maybe better for a product review site because of the information they include.

  28. Social bookmarking of all your articles or pages does help bring traffic to your site. Some of my articles get better exposure from Digg, Delicious or Stumble Upon than any other way. So, I think it depends on your purpose and what you’re trying to accomplish with your blog. Maybe better for a product review site because of the information they include.

  29. Late to the party I guess, but I have to disagree with you for two reasons.

    #1: I decided to check my stats on “Add This” (I didn’t even realize they had tracking until recently) and saw that it’s getting about 50 uses per month. That’s not bad since it means I’m getting a bunch of external links to my site just from the tool.

    #2: Add This offers an “Email This” option as well as the social bookmarking stuff. That’s great for small sites that don’t have their own “Email This” button set up. Really, I can’t see why you wouldn’t at least try it out and see if it helps.

  30. Late to the party I guess, but I have to disagree with you for two reasons.

    #1: I decided to check my stats on “Add This” (I didn’t even realize they had tracking until recently) and saw that it’s getting about 50 uses per month. That’s not bad since it means I’m getting a bunch of external links to my site just from the tool.

    #2: Add This offers an “Email This” option as well as the social bookmarking stuff. That’s great for small sites that don’t have their own “Email This” button set up. Really, I can’t see why you wouldn’t at least try it out and see if it helps.

  31. I’m not a social anything, I have a facebook and myspace account but nothing really fancy. I do have a verification, or different view for you. I found this site becuase I searched I hate Addthis, I was looking for a way to disable it, until I found out that it was the website that has it on the page. Why do I hate it, well it seems that these social bookmarklet pops up when I visit a website, not one specifically just sporadically. I don’t use, it usually just covers up the information that I’m reading, so I close that tab and move on to a different one to get to the same information. Since that information is found somewhere else, the is the page sans annoying pop-up that I what I email to friends or add to favorites to come back to later.

  32. I’m not a social anything, I have a facebook and myspace account but nothing really fancy. I do have a verification, or different view for you. I found this site becuase I searched I hate Addthis, I was looking for a way to disable it, until I found out that it was the website that has it on the page. Why do I hate it, well it seems that these social bookmarklet pops up when I visit a website, not one specifically just sporadically. I don’t use, it usually just covers up the information that I’m reading, so I close that tab and move on to a different one to get to the same information. Since that information is found somewhere else, the is the page sans annoying pop-up that I what I email to friends or add to favorites to come back to later.

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