News can break at a moment’s notice, and whether you have the exclusive scoop or not, chances are that readers coming to your website to read the story will want to share it with their friends and family. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social networking services can help give your story a greater platform, especially if you use their social media buttons to facilitate sharing. But is your organization’s website overusing these widgets? Or worse, are they there for the wrong reasons?

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A few months ago, a screenshot circulated on the Web of an article from The Washington Post showing nearly a dozen links to Facebook; the different links allow users to recommend or share the article, or to become a fan of their Facebook fan page. CNN’s articles include buttons for Facebook and Twitter with their articles, along with a general “Share” button including links to other services. These buttons are meant to increase engagement between users and their friends, but these examples may show that sometimes news organizations need to fill whitespace on their pages, and they do so by adding additional social widgets.

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Whether or not the user experience of using social media buttons on news sites is good or bad, the overall numbers show that good content is the fuel of the social web. A recent study by AOL and Nielsen shows that 23% of social media messages include links to content (published articles, videos, and photos), which equates to roughly 27,000,000 pieces of content shared each day. A number like that may be a case for including as many share buttons as possible on your website, but less is more when it comes to adding these social sharing buttons for a few reasons.

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From a marketing standpoint, it’s important to make sure that an organization’s social media sharing options are focused based on their audience’s demographics, and minimalistic enough so that the user doesn’t have to spend too much time figuring out their next step for sharing the article. That not only includes the quantity of social sharing buttons, but also the placement of these buttons. The New York Times does a great job with their social networking buttons, including Facebook and Twitter and a button to more services in a simple box near the top of the article. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also takes the simple approach to content sharing by having only one social sharing button with each article. The other benefit of having a minimum of sharing buttons for articles is a shorter load time for the page.

Have you seen any good (or bad) implementations of social sharing buttons on news organization websites? Share your findings in the comments!