A lot of things have changed since I last blogged. There have been several updates from Google – Penguin and Panda wreaked havoc on a lot of sites, social signals became more significant as more and more marketers began gaming the system and content marketing became more relevant than ever.
As I kickstarted Broke Bloke Blogs at the end of the year 2014, I made sure that I was going to take all precautions necessary to avoid being penalized and also set a good first impression. So I picked up one of the best theme frameworks in the market – Thesis from DIY Themes along with a cool Thesis skin from Thesis Laboratory that came with its own call to action widgets, post teasers, social sharing plugins et al….
With the site set up I began churning content on a daily basis generating decent traffic and readers. I implemented some of the best internet marketing practices, I even made sure that the content I published had cool headlines, attractive images (I use Canva for this) and tools like Piktochart to create engaging infographic elements.
Confident I had enough to make my mark, I started publishing and waited for the magic to happen. Through these platforms I was able to get social shares averaging at just 205 shares a post while my peers were doing so much better at over 600+ shares a post.
Here’s the breakdown of the average shares I was getting from each social platform:
- Facebook: 21
- Twitter: 181
- Google Plus: 14
- LinkedIn: 5
- Pinterest: 0
While I was quite happy with my articles performance on the social web, what I didn’t realize was that my content was destined for more.
THEN A GOD SEND!
I noticed a tweet from my good Twitter mate Ian Anderson Gray (@iagdotme) who reached out to tell me that my tweet graphics were really cool. In the course of our conversation he also suggested I use a plugin called Social Warfare to optimize my images, particularly for Pinterest.
I thought to myself, I already have social share buttons on my article pages and also have featured images, so what is Ian talking about?
Our conversation went on for two days and finally after some research I came to realize that I wasn’t optimizing my article images for individual platforms. And when Ian explained to me how images can create a huge impact in terms of increasing shares and even increasing my blog articles click through rate, I knew what I had to do.
On closer examination of my social share statistics, I noticed that Twitter shares averaged to around 180 shares per post, while Pinterest shares were appalling at 0 shares a post.
When I went to my Pinterest boards, it noticed that my pinned images were less than impressive when compared to what others were pinning. On further analysis I realized that Pinterest images were best optimized at 600×900 or 735×1100 (i.e) a 2:3 aspect ratio.
Next I signed in to Facebook and found my post images just as clumsy and ill-fitted. I figured out that Facebook needed a different aspect ratio (16:9) for maximum exposure and so did Twitter and LinkedIn.
That’s when I realized that although I had done plenty of good work optimizing my content for search engines, I had completely ignored optimizing my posts for social media.
My EPIC FAIL – not optimizing images for social media.
I now knew I had to design different images (sizes) for posting on different social platforms. Designing and sharing manually would be time consuming so I needed a plugin that would automate the task for me, at least to some extent! Plus, I also needed my readers to share my articles with the attractive images I created.
Most plugins that I went through from Digg Digg and Flare to SumoMe had one epic miss – they did not offer options to customize my tweet or my Pinterest description nor did they offer options to upload a unique Pinterest-specific image. Plus they were heavy and slowing down my site’s performance.
Broke Bloke Rises To Social Challenge
I quickly checked out the plugin… it looked gorgeous – and had some great features:
- Allowed customization of shared content
- Claimed to be fast loading
- Had a click-to-tweet functionality; AND
- Allowed custom Pinterest image optimization.
I picked up the plugin the very next day for around 25 bucks and set about configuring my blog and redesigning images for all my blog posts.
Configuring Social Warfare Plugin
The Plugin Settings Page is where I had to configure which social icons I wanted displayed and where:
Location: Here I had to choose the display location – on posts, pages or site wide; and whether to display below the content, above and below the content or site wide.
Social Media Icons: Here I selected the social icons for display.
Order of Social icons: This section let me click and drag elements to reorder them to my liking.
Set Visual Options: The Visual Options page had options to set a custom color for the sharing buttons. It also had options to set a decimal place if shares cross the 1000 mark.
Click to Tweet: In this section, I could select from a handful of creative themes for my quote embeds.
Sniply Buster: This feature checks if my site is displayed inside a snip.ly frame and removes the third party ads while redirecting back to the page on my domain. I set this to On.
Advanced Usage: I left this section untouched, but if you are using the popular posts widget that comes with Social Warfare, you can follow the instructions here to sort posts by popularity.
Configuring Posts in Social Warfare
Now to the next important section: Configuring individual posts. In the first section, Social Media Image, I created and uploaded one single image for Twitter, Facebook Google Plus and LinkedIn at 1280×720 or 1920×1080.
Next, I gave it a social media title (optional) and description.
Then I created and uploaded an image optimised for Pinterest at 600×900 or 735×1100. I also added a custom Pinterest description.
Finally, I had the option of adding a custom tweet and choosing a location for the social buttons to show up. I left it at default since I already configured the option in the Settings page.
The whole configuration and setup process took me less than 30 minutes, the only extra trouble being creating/uploading an extra image for Pinterest for each of my posts.
Social Shares After Installing Social Warfare Plugin
The entire image optimization process took about a day to complete. I optimized all the posts on my blog, about 25 in all and tested it on all various social platforms. When I shared my posts using the Social Warfare buttons on the site, I found that the correctly optimized images were automatically picked up. The Pinterest pins were equally impressive and so did the ones on Facebook and Google Plus. The images also picked up quite nicely on my automated social bookmarking tool OnlyWire.
Now it was just a matter of waiting to see if my time and money were well invested. Here’s what happened after one month and 14 days of using Social Warfare.
My average social share count jumped from a mere 205 to to 610. Here’s the breakdown of the average shares in each social platform:
- Facebook: 217
- Twitter: 342
- Google Plus: 28
- LinkedIn: 61
- Pinterest: 161
Some of the articles on my blog.
As you can see, the results were pretty outstanding. My social shares tripled in just one and a half month of using Social Warfare. My older blog posts were receiving good shares, my website speed wasn’t impacted, I spent very little time optimizing images for various social platforms and the results – transformational.
Now, I have 1 plugin in the place of three. Social Warfare replaced (click to tweet, social share, Snip.ly blocker) and managed to keep the site performance at par.
Thanks to Ian’s recommendation and the brilliant work of Nicholas Z. Cardot, Dustin W. Stout, and Jason T. Wiser, I have been able to leverage my content in the best way possible for five different social networks with just one plugin.
If you find yourself in the same predicament that I was a couple of months ago, consider investing in Social Warfare. It only costs $24 for a single license (with pricier plans to install them on a “X” number of sites) and is well worth its cost. I truly benefitted a great deal from Social Warfare and should you choose to use it, I am sure you will see a transformation in your social shares too!
UPDATED ON 2/May/2015
Since my review of Social Warfare on the 20th of April, the developers have unleashed a ton of great features intended to make the plugin BETTER, FASTER, and STRONGER. Let’s take a look at some of the big feature improvements, shall we:
One of the most attractive features of Social Warfare has been its display style. But this was just restricted to one visual style and 11 color set options. With the latest update, the developers have simply blown away the limitations. You now have 6 visual styles and 14 color set options that makes it possible for you to apply over 75 different style combinations.
You can now adjust the layout and shape of the buttons as well as the color, outline and hover effect in a way that best draws the reader’s attention to share your stuff.
With so many styling options now available, it would definitely be painful if you had to apply, save and preview every time you made a change. Thankfully, the Live Preview feature is now available so you get to see the changes in real time and make adjustments more quickly.
Faster Page Loads
Now here comes the best news about the latest update. The entire plugin has been reduced in size from about 1.4 MB to just over half its size. This despite expanding the display options from 11 to over 75. That’s faster page loads for you on top of more features. Doesn’t happen often enough with most plugins but when it does, you know you put your money in the right place.
Social Warfare’s social icons are now powered using Font Awesome, which translates to faster page loads as only one font is loaded compared to multiple transparent PNGs. The icons themselves now appear crisp and sharp on any display (including Retina) since they are powered by vectors.
UTM Tracking Codes
A UTM code, which is a short piece of code placed at the end of links to track data has now been added to the plugin. This installation will not only enable Google Analytics to tell which social platforms are bringing traffic to your site, it will also show how many of such shares are coming as a direct result of using Social Warfare.
Minimum Total Shares to Display
No one likes to display a total share count when its just 5 or 10. Thanks to this update, you can now choose when Social Warfare displays the total. Just set a number and the totals will be hidden until that minimum count has been reached.
The development team has plenty of interesting features lined up for future release and if this is something that is important to you, its well worth noting down.
- The ability to share buttons on one page that reflect and share links to another page. One place where this would work well is Thank You pages where users share links to the landing page where they signed up from.
- The ability to add Social Warfare buttons with any display option right from the WordPress post editor.
- The ability to add Social Warfare to text widgets.
UPDATED on 30th Jan 2016
First up, Foodies Bloggers!
Yummly as you know is the hottest destination to discover and share recipes and everything foodie. It’s the most happening place you ought to be if you are a food blogger and if you want more traffic and recognition for your blog . And the Social Warfare social sharing plugin has got you covered with the latest addition of the Yummly button. If you want to expand your social presence, and are still undecided about picking up social Warfare, this is a darn good reason to get yourself a copy.
Still not convinced?
If you have a mobile, chances are you WhatsApp. The WhatsApp community is one of the most active and viral communities you’ll see and the inclusion of the WhatsApp button on Social Warfare is a great value addition for users. Remember WhatsApp is mobile based, so you’ll only see this button on your mobile device when activated. The icon will stay hidden for desktops.
The Email sharing option that was introduced on Social Warfare ran into some problems and had to be taken off, but the good news is that its back! All the bugs have been ironed out and its ready for use again. If you missed this sharing option, its time to get back on it!
Twitter Count Will be Back
Twitter’s woes is dragging us all down, particularly their stupid decision to get rid of the count stats. Social Warfare has found a workaround for this, but its only happening in the next update, so if that was holding you back from picking up the plugin, rest assured, Twitter Count WILL BE BACK!
Find Your Most Viral Posts
Want to quickly discover your most popular posts on social media? Simply head to the dashboard and click on the Shares column to see which of your posts are doing great on the social scene. This is a very useful feature that tells you which content you need to focus on to improve your marketing efforts.
Facebook Author Tag
You can now set your author profile on the WordPress dashboard Social Warfare section to have your name show up at the bottom of Facebook shares when someone shares a post that you’ve authored.
That’s the incredible new feature updates that you can benefit from with Social Warfare. If you need more information on the bug fixes you can check out Github.