Iconoclasm 2.0

I’ve been seeing a lot more social media icons on websites these days, and you may have noticed that I’ve recently added a few to this blog.

Add this blog to your Technorati favoritesWhy? Well, I figure that if I’m serious about the use of social media for collaborative learning and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, then I should do what I can to encourage participation.

However, not everyone shares my view. Steven Bradley provides an enjoyable review of some of the negative sentiment out there that’s brooding over social media icons. Like most things in life, this new iconoclasm can be divided into themes of quality and quantity.

Post this blog to FacebookQuality

One of the points raised by the brooders is that the addition of social media icons to your blog won’t increase your readership if the quality of your content is poor. Too true, but I think this line of argument misses the point.

I’m sure most bloggers feel they have an important message to tell; that’s why they invest their time, energy and emotion in blogging in the first place. Isn’t it natural for them to want to spread their message? Social media can help them do that.

Tag this blog on del.icio.usSure, good content will be bookmarked and shared regardless of the presence or absence of icons, but only if it’s read in the first place! Blogs with a small readership aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just struggling to make their mark. Social media provides them with an opportunity for promotion.

So my point is: Social media icons won’t increase your readership if the quality of your content is poor, but they can if it’s good.

StumbleUpon this blogQuantity

Another line adopted by the brooders is that social media icons are just plain annoying. Again, I agree to the extent that no one likes seeing millions of icons littering the screen. They’re an eyesore.

However, I don’t agree that the icons serve no purpose and should all be removed. Steven Bradley observed “most people who are familiar with social media probably know how to submit your posts, but why not help them along by making it easier for them”. In other words, you can copy the URL of my cool blog, log into your favourite social media site, post the link, and key in all the other necessary details – or you can click this button.

From this perspective, then, adding social media icons to your blog may be considered a professional courtesy.

So if social media icons are useful (even for superusers), but too many are an eyesore, the solution is to use only a few of them. You could pick your favourites or the Top 5 most popular, or you could use a service such as AddThis to umbrella many of them under the one icon.

Applying the learnings

Do I practice what I preach? I think so.

Tweet about this blog on TwitterFirst of all, I do my best to maintain the quality of my blog. I don’t post anything willy nilly – I use Twitter for that! Rather, when I blog, I make a conscious effort to add fresh insight into my topic of interest and to extract applications for the real world. (You can be the judge of that.)

Secondly, yes, I want to spread my message. At the very least, I think it’s worth sharing, so I’ve added a couple of icons to assist the sharing process. It’s not about vanity, believe it or not: it’s about participating in a community of practice.

So I haven’t added millions of icons: just two via AddThis (along with the ubiquitous RSS feed). These catch-all icons allow me to provide access to dozens of popular social media sites without having to list each and every one up front. It’s not only quicker to code, but also easier on the eye.

Why do I have two AddThis icons? Because I want to emphasise the difference between bookmarking and sharing. Yes, both icons go to the same place, but I’m hoping that my readers will do so for dual reasons.

Digg this blogYou’ll notice that I’ve haven’t added the icons to my individual articles – except this one! While I realise there’s a difference between sharing a whole blog and sharing a specific article on that blog, I’m wary of overkill.

Finally, I’ve added a few extra icons on my About me page. In this case, I haven’t used AddThis because only a few social media are relevant to me.

Furthermore, you won’t find any links to my Flickr photos or my Amazon wishlist, because my blog isn’t actually about me per se. It’s about my (modest) contributions to the e‑learning community.

P.S. Please feel free to bookmark and share this blog. Go on, you know you want to!

Bookmark this blog on social media

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P.P.S. The cool icons decorating this article were created by DryIcons.com.

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