I just killed all those buttons, or, as I sometimes think of them, zits on the face of the internet. I’ve felt for a while that they weren’t actually doing anything for me, but we all had a moment there where the conventional wisdom was that every damn page on the internet had to have a row of buttons for twitter and facebook and g+ (and pinterest and dribbble and digg and reddit and stumbleupon and seriously? are we done yet? does anyone really seriously believe that a dozen or twenty different buttons looks like anything but junk to be skimmed past as quickly as possible on the way to where you’re really going?)

The vague noise in the back of my head crystallized with this:

Which was followed shortly by this post from iA. A few highlights:

If you provide excellent content, social media users will take the time to read and talk about it in their networks. That’s what you really want. You don’t want a cheap thumbs up, you want your readers to talk about your content with their own voice.

and especially this

Social media buttons are not a social media strategy, even though they’re often sold that way. Excellent content, serious networking and constant human engagement is the way to build your profile. Adding those sleazy buttons won’t achieve anything. Social media is not easy — there is no simple trick. Usually, what most people do is not the winning strategy but the safe strategy, and safe rarely wins.

Go read the whole post. It’s excellent. And then come back when you’re done; I’ll wait.

The thing that gets overlooked amidst the hype about their bold move to get rid of social buttons is that neither of those sites is doing anything to get rid of either engagement with their readers or spreading the word about their posts — Smashing has a link to Twitter on each post, just a link, like this: Share on Twitter (only theirs works). And the thing is, given their audience of web nerds, I’ll bet that’s more effective for them than any of those other twenty networks (that, let’s be honest, everyone totally ignores), and it loads a heck of a lot faster than the button and all the associated slimy tracking scripts that come with it. And the iA post goes further, incorporating the best of their reactions into the post.

Neither of them is static or dead or remotely like a ghost town. Unlike, say, these:

Which is what all those “17 people shared this” buttons start to look like after a while.

Here’s the thing

I tweet and retweet stuff. Enthusiastically. But it’s not because of any strategy: it’s because my twitter world, which consists of my own stream, a bunch of my best and chattiest friends from several mostly-separate circles, random drop-ins from their friends who often become mine, and… you get the picture — that extended circle lives and feeds on conversation. That’s what social sharing actually means. (I do much the same thing with facebook, but less often.)

That guy over there who followed you four times in a row because he’s using some tool that shows him everyone who hasn’t followed him back? Whose every tweet is a link, no conversation, and the link obviously comes from a button because they’re all formatted exactly the same? Who probably has “strategist” somewhere in his bio? Yeah, that guy. He followed you too (four times). He’s not part of the conversation. He’s creepy as hell and we all secretly kinda hate him.

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