Considerations for Going Social in Digital Publications

image of sharing icons

(Image courtesy of

Including social links in a digital publication seems like a no-brainer. Readers like your content, they share it with their friends and colleagues, free marketing, number of readers goes through the roof, right? It does happen, but only when a few factors are considered to make sure the experience is great. 

Here are some things to think about before you add social links to your publication: 

1) Where does it make sense for people to share this information?

screenshot of too many sharing options

I call these types of sharing dialogs “Jam Jars” after the famous study cited in The Paradox of Choice.  With so many, mostly useless, options, the majority of people will resist making a choice versus deciding how to share. 

Instead, think hard about how and where people might be compelled to share the information. Would people want to share this article on Twitter? Why might they want to do that? Are these tech-focused articles that readers might want to share with Hacker News or a Reddit community? 

You can also use analytics to see where new clicks are coming from. If readers are going to the trouble of sharing on Pinterest because that’s what is appropriate for this content, make it easy for them. 

Being thoughtful about this will greatly inform your answers for the next item as well. 

2) What are you sharing?

Pre-populating a twitter message like this doesn’t usually get you a lot of traction:

screenshot of example tweet showing boring content in all caps

But if you’ve thought about what might trigger your readers to share the article, you probably have a good idea of what makes sense to put here. Answers often include: a) a link to the article, b) twitter handle of the author, c) link to a comment left on the article, d) article title or subtitle, e) hashtag relevant to the context of the article.

Another trend in this area we’re seeing a lot lately is allowing readers to select text blurbs & tweet that with a link. 

screenshot from little big details showing nice select and tweet behavior from

(Image courtesy of Little Big Details – an excellent collection of UX/UI best practices!)

[if you aren’t using paywalls you can skip this one – if you are using paywalls, this is extra important]

3) Is there a paywall? If so, what do people who click a link to the paywall-ed content see?

This is a critical item to think about. Ignoring this will cost you both readers and goodwill. Clicking something that looks interesting, which a trusted acquaintance has shared, and instead of seeing the article you thought you were going to read, being presented with a request for payment, even a tweet or social media share, is a very bad experience to offer people. 

But there are many creative ways to enable and encourage people to share your content while still observing a paywall. Here are some of the ones we’ve helped our customers do: 

  • Sharing links without the navigation chrome (so visitors can read the individual article, but not go forward or backward in the publication)
  • Sharing a time-restricted link (so visitors can view a shared article for, say, 24-hours)
  • Making all content viewable via sharing links for a set amount of time (so visitors can read anything on the site when the publication first comes out, for up to, say, 2 weeks)
  • Giving readers a set amount of “shares”, so they can share the articles they truly want other people to read
  • Offering snippets, or teasers, of the article, with the option to unlock the rest of the article by tweeting or subscribing (example here:

There are a lot of interesting ways to protect content but also encourage new visitors and readers. The point is to find something that works for you and not to present new visitors with an immediate request to part with their money. 

4) What’s the Call-to-Action (CTA) for a drop-in reader?

Your community is amazing. They’ve shared articles for you & brought you new potential readers. What happens when that new reader gets to the end of the article? 

screenshot of what to read next suggestions from Make:

(Image of related content from Make)

According to Contextly, the single, most important factor in being able to predict if a reader from Google, Twitter or Facebook will return to your site is whether they read more than one article during a visit.

So a solid CTA would be to give them another article to read that might be in their field of interest. 

Some other options are: 

  • Direct them to subscriptions. 
  • Show them a relevant, beautiful ad (please don’t show them a banner ad or annoying flash ad). 
  • Encourage them to comment or share.
  • Offer ways to get in touch with the author, editor, publisher or community

But the point is not to waste this opportunity to offer someone something of value when they proactively came to read your article. 


Offering the ability for your audience to share content widely with their communities can be a great boon for marketing and sales. Doing so while thinking about the experience of clicking those links ensures the new visitors to your site are much more likely to return and share again.  

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