This is Part 1 of a 2 part post.
It is rare to find a blog these days that doesn’t have some type of social networking links on it. You see them everywhere: follow my tweets, add to delicious, share on facebook, and the list goes on. These days, the knowledge of and the effective promotion using social networking is critical. The question is not “should you add social links to your blog,” but rather, “what is the best way to add social links to your blog?”
There are essentially two ways to go about this. First, and seemingly easiest, is to utilize a plug-in.
Editorial comment: Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I prefer to NOT use plug-ins when it is simple and more efficient to do something directly. Too many people are quick to use a plug-in for every little thing they want to add to their blog and soon it becomes bloated with plug-ins. This is usually followed by compatability issues when upgrading, or finding that new plug-in you just installed breaks your site, but only when plug-ins “A” and/or “D” are active, but not when “B,C, and E” are active. So, I weigh the pros and cons for any plug-in that I might choose to use. If it makes more sense to add feature directly myself, then I don’t bother using a plug-in.
Reasons To Use a Plug-in
1. It’s Easy
Well, I can’t argue with that answer. It is easy to add a plug-in to your WP blog, especially these days when you can do it directly within the admin panel (I recall the “old days” when we had to download a zip, extract, upload to our site, then activate. I also had to walk barefoot through the snow to school and it was uphill both ways; but that’s another story). If your answer is “it’s easy,” I think you will see later in this article that it is just as easy to “roll-your-own.” Essentially then, this reason is offset.
2. Fear of “Programming”
Many of you probably think that because you don’t know the first thing about programming, that your only option is to use a plugin. But you will be surprised how easy it is to add these links yourself. If you can make edits in your template to handle the CSS of your plug-in’s output, you already know enough to add these links directly into your template without a plug-in.
3. Integrated Stats
This one I do not have an answer for. At least one plug-in offers stats integrated into your WP admin panel. I must admit, that is a good reason to use a plug-in. So if this is important to you, then you should find a plug-in that offers this feature.
The only plug-ins that I would recommend for this feature are those that offer some type of stats, or other additional features that make their use more than just adding social links to your blog. Honestly, the only one I have found so far is the AddThis WP plug-in (if anyone else knows of some others, feel free to chime in via comments).
Reasons to “Roll Your Own” Social Links
Well, you have stayed with me so far. To quote Tim Robbin’s character Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption, “If you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.” Now let’s cover reasons to “Roll Your Own” social links.
1. No Upgrade Compatibility Issues
As a plug-in developer myself, I understand how difficult it is to keep up with new versions of WordPress. It seems every time I turn around, there’s an upgrade. Don’t get me wrong here, that is a good thing. It shows that WordPress is growing and improving. But everytime there is an upgrade, there is a risk that particular upgrade will not be compatible with your plethora of plug-ins. And all it takes is one to bring down your site – then you need to figure out which one it is. That is why I recommend not using plug-ins for simple tasks that you can implement yourself. Don’t use a plug-in if you don’t need to. Then you don’t have to worry about whether it is compatible or not. (And for those of you that put off upgrading because the latest WP release is not compatible with a plug-in you are married to and there is no upgrade yet for the plug-in, just remember that many times these WP upgrades involve security patches. If you don’t like being hacked, or don’t want to be hacked, then don’t put off the upgrades!! I can’t over emphasize this enough!)
2. Less “Bulk” to Your WP Installation
Every time you add a plug-in, you are adding one more thing that has to load for your site. Too many plug-ins can slow down your site. So again, don’t do with a plug-in something that can be done just as easily without.
3. Just as Easy to Implement
I promised you way at the beginning of this article that I would tell you how easy it is to implement social links into your site without a plug-in. Part 2 of this article is going to cover that process.
4. You Can Have Any Social Links
An added benefit of doing it yourself is that you can utilize any social links you want without begging the plug-in’s author to add them for you (or adding them to the plug-in yourself, thereby making your version incompatible with future upgrades – but if you already have the knowledge to do that, why are you reading this?) Part 2 will teach you how to add any social link you want.