If you are sick of hearing about social networking, join the club. However, there is real value in the traffic that it can generate for your site. Does that mean you need to add social networking buttons to your blog or website? Probably.
But don't go crazy.
You should care about the traffic that can be generated by social networking sites to your blog.
The value of having the little buttons or chicklets on your blog or website is going to be tough to measure. Sure, there are some free service like Share This that allow you to track the number of clicks the social networking buttons get. That's all great to know.
At the end of the day, what you really need to know is how much traffic back to your site is generated thanks to these buttons. It is much harder to track the entire traffic path.
Someone clicks an "Add to Facebook" button on your site. A link to your blog post is generated in that person's Facebook profile. Cool. However, how do you know how many people subsequently click that link because they saw it in that person's profile? How do you track those clicks separately from another person's profile link? How do you track those clicks separately from your Facebook fan page?
Do I need to be that specific about tracking my social networking traffic?
You should care to a certain extent because if something all of a sudden really starts to work well, you want to know exactly what it was so you can repeat it over and over again. This will help you spend your time most effectively.
To take it a step further, you should be concerned with tracking all your inbound links. If you are not checking and analyzing your website statistics on a daily basis, you are doing yourself a disservice. There are a lot of great tools out there to help you track and digest these stats in real-time. Part 6 of our free blogging course goes into much more detail on stats tracking services.
Do I need to have social networking buttons on my blog or website?
Getting back to the point, it is probably a good idea. Don't obsess about it though.
Find an attractive, non-obtrusive way to integrate the buttons into your homepage and individual blog posts. Make sure they do not overwhelm the design, and try not to have them look tacky. Remember, these are just there as a reminder for people. They already know they have a Facebook account. And they know they can post links to it. So this is just a little reminder that will save them a step or two.
Instead, save that sweat and stress. Refocus it on creating unique solicitations for people to post the link to their Facebook or Twitter accounts. That's time much better spent.
Come up with an incentive or contest for people to post a link to your page.
Want to collect user photos? Have them submit them to you as an @reply to you via Twitter. That usually generates a good amount of traffic because it shows up publicly to everyone following that user as well.
Have a "Facebook Fans Only" contest. The only users eligible are people who are Fans of your site on Facebook.
In other words, putting just a little more thought into social networks on a post-by-post basis will be far more beneficial than worrying about the placement of your share buttons.