In Defense of Social Bookmarking Icons (aka Sociable)

Standard Web StandardsHa! Finally, I get a reaction.

Kidding aside, what’s with the heat the social bookmarking icons (aka Sociable) are getting lately? To cite a few:

  1. 37 Signals’ Signal Vs. Noise Blog thinks the icons are “tiresome, it results in extraneous visual noise, it makes your site look cheap, and the benefits are dubious at best.”
  2. Web-Graphics think that “they’re absolutely useless.”
  3. Mezzoblue wants us to agree that “this trend has officially jumped the shark?
  4. ionfish thinks “Thereís an arrogance implicit in it that I find distasteful.”
  5. Coding Horror thinks they are “meaningless icons.”

The blogs I mentioned do make a point backed with solid arguments– visual clutter is bad, useless icons are bad, icons are uncool, etc. I totally agree with them. I myself am guilty of proliferating this “blogging faux pas”, while yet to see the effect of this on my blog (basically blindly following a trend). But after two months of putting using the Sociable plug-in, I can say that I am not compelled to take it out.

Here’s why I will not remove the Sociable plug-in and encourage fellow bloggers to use it:

  1. It helped me get traffic. Based on my logs, I received views referred by some of the icons placed. However, not all sites I included gave referrals, so I simply removed them from the list. Why is traffic generation important? Well, how does competing with 100 million websites sound?
  2. Marketing. I help the social bookmarking sites get marketed and in turn I benefit from the promotion when being posted. What disappointed me from the criticisms from the aforementioned blogs is that they seem to be highly critical of the phenomenon that helped them elevate to such “thought leader” position.
  3. I need help. Yes, I am humble to admit that my blog needs help in getting it “out there.” I don’t have the resources to spend on more “acceptable” help so I’ll settle for the uncool icons.

If there’s one thing I learned from this is Moderation is key. I won’t turn my back on a very useful tool but nobody should go through a phalanx of icons. I have reduced the number of icons that really has helped me. My tip to those using the Sociable icon: please take the time to change the default options.