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The City of Portland, Oregon

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Bureau of Technology Services

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POWR: What social media integrations should we consider?

 Image of social media icons

By Greg Clapp, 8 August 2018


Provide recommendations supported by research to address the following questions:

Should we include social media feeds on the website?

Do we need share buttons?


  • The objective of the POWR project is to create a community-oriented website where services are easy to find, easy to access, and easy to understand.

  • The fewest possible distractions to this objective should be included on content pages.

  • The general content strategy is to drive traffic to the Portland website, where our best, most engaging content is created, curated, optimized for search, and permanently maintained.

  • Social media should be used to drive traffic to the website, not the other way around.

  • Content posted on social media should already exist on the website.


  1. DO include links/buttons to the city’s or individual bureaus’ social media channels.

  2. DO NOT integrate social media feed widgets on the website.

  3. DO encourage sharing by creating share-worthy content with appropriately structured titles, and craft metadata to control how pages appear when shared through social media channels organically.

  4. DO NOT include social sharing buttons or share counters on content pages.


Integration of social media feeds

When redesigning a website, the conversation inevitably turns to integration of social media. It’s become almost a given that organizations must provide a plethora of ways to interact socially...embedded feeds, likes, shares, comments and other social features. While that may have been true in the past, most of these features are distracting, consume valuable homepage real estate, draw viewers away from your site, and generally have more drawbacks than advantages. Is this the best approach for your content strategy? It depends on the purpose of your website and how engaged you are on social media. 

"You should be using twitter to drive traffic to your website, not the other way around. With a Twitter feed on your website you will be driving traffic away and sending them to Twitter… This will help your optimisation, as all of the contents in the article reside on your website with the keywords being indexed by Google."(1)

"You need to take a pragmatic view on what is being published on the Twitter feed and ultimately consider whether placing it on your websites homepage actually delivers the intended benefits, without either creating more visual clutter or distracting engaged visitors by leading them away to other more interesting locations/destinations."(2)

"Sending a visitor to a social network puts them in the hands of a profit-driven, billion dollar company that is totally focused on keeping and monetizing that visitor. Is that good for your marketing?"(3)

First, consider your objective and weigh whether a social media feed contributes to it. Is the goal to lead users away from your website to your social media campaigns, which may or may not be well maintained? Or is it to drive traffic to your website, where your best, most engaging content should be permanently maintained, curated and optimized for search engines? If you’re serious about SEO, it should be the latter, and this is the content philosophy of the POWR project.

Do you maintain an active social media campaign, and frequently post and interact with followers? If not, you probably shouldn’t draw attention to an anemic feed that could easily give the perception of your organization being indifferent, lazy or unprofessional. Users will interpret your feed as “social proof” of your trustworthiness and value, whether good or bad.

Is website performance important to your organization? It should be. According to Google, “53% of visits are likely to be abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load.”(4) The integration code provided by social media networks is often bloated and adds weight and time to your page loads. Social media integrations can also also suffer from outages and unannounced API changes that can break the feed widgets altogether.(5)

The decision-making flowchart below incorporates these questions and is derived from the article, “Reasons not to have a Twitter feed on your homepage,” by Luke Stanley, Resource Techniques.(6) Though it specifically references Twitter, the analysis applies to most social media networks.

Disadvantages to placing a social media feed on your homepage:

  • It leads site visitors away from your site

  • It’s redundant; things you post on social media should already be on your website

  • If you don’t have active social media campaigns, embedding a feed with weeks old posts can make your organization look lazy and unprofessional

  • Visual clutter steals attention away from your website content and uses valuable homepage real estate

  • 3rd party client-side widgets are often slow to load and degrade page performance

  • The benefits rarely outweigh the disadvantages

Advantages to using a social media feed:

  • If the content that exists in your social media channels is more valuable than your website content, a social feed is an effective tool to draw users there and potentially increase follower counts

  • Can provide links to a forum for community interaction; however, this can lead to negative exposure and PR disasters if not moderated well


  • Do not embed social media feeds on your website.

  • Seriously assess the value of consuming valuable homepage real estate with a feed widget that will serve to draw your site visitors to your social media channels instead of your website content.

  • Do not integrate a feed unless the benefits outweigh the disadvantages (most likely they will not)

  • If social media is an important part of your marketing campaign, consider adding unobtrusive links or buttons to your various channels; this lets your visitors know that you participate there but will be less of an enticement for them to immediately leave your website

Do we need share buttons?

Plenty of design and hosting resources will tell you that you need social sharing buttons. It’s true that social media can be one of the best sources of traffic to your website, and no one disputes the importance of sharing content across social media channels.(7)

What they don’t tell you is that those buttons are not only unnecessary but also detrimental to good design and content strategy. Social media users are sharing content now more than ever before. What they’re not doing is clicking those candy-colored social share buttons...which implies they’re using other methods, such as copy and pasting URLs into their social apps or using the built-in sharing features in apps on their phones.

Smashing Magazine (a resource used by web designers worldwide) carried out their own separate experiment. Here’s what they found: “We removed FB buttons and traffic from Facebook increased. Reason: instead of ‘liking’ articles, readers share it on their timeline.”(8)

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, but few hard statistics exist from unbiased sources (i.e. sources who don’t have a vested interest in selling social sharing services). In 2014, GOV.UK performed a 10-week experiment to add social buttons to their pages and found that their overall sharing rate as 0.2% of page views, with their most shared news article earning only 1.63%.(9) In 2015, Moovweb conducted a study of 61 million mobile sessions and found that only 0.2% of those users interact with sharing buttons, and only 0.6% of desktop users did.(10) Those same mobile users were 11.5 times more likely to interact with ads!

And yet content gets shared constantly on social media. You can’t avoid it. More telling than overall click rates would be data on the delta between those who use social sharing buttons and those who share using other means, but that data is not easily forthcoming

Further, there is evidence that “liking” and sharing buttons decrease the effectiveness of certain types of web pages. Sharing buttons with counters can provide negative social proof and dissuade visitors if the counts aren’t high enough. The buttons and counters also distract users from the main call to action on a web page and can decrease click-throughs and conversions.(11)

The use of social sharing buttons aside, sharing pages through social media is a powerful way to attract viewers to your site. But as an interesting counterpoint, social network algorithms routinely penalize posts that contain URLs. Facebook, Twitter, and other networks want to keep visitors on their sites, so they lower the visibility and reach of posts with external links, as do other networks. They favor original content posted on their site, such as photos and videos.

So what’s a content marketer to do? Play to the algorithms and keep your best content on the social network, or link anyway and hope enough followers see the post? If you maintain active social media campaigns, the best recommendation is a balanced approach tilted in favor of driving traffic to your site. Play to the algorithms to maintain a solid social presence and gain followers, but also slip in links to original, permanent content that exists on your site.(12)

Why you should avoid using social share buttons:

  • Visual clutter distracts from useful, engaging content, or from your pages’ primary call to action

  • 3rd party client-side widgets are often slow to load and degrade page performance

  • Poor user experience, especially on mobile where users are typically logged into social apps; sharing buttons will require users to log in again on the apps’ mobile web sites

  • A bad user experience is what users will remember, not your content

  • Users don’t have a good idea of how the posts will appear in social feeds before they are posted; whereas apps like Facebook give a pretty good approximation and show how the attached link will appear when shared organically

  • Sharing buttons with counters will provide viewers with “negative proof” and degrade performance if the counts aren’t high enough(13)

  • Major privacy concerns from click tracking by 3rd parties, especially in light of the recent enactment of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (14)

Why you should use social share buttons:

  • To support the very small number of users who will actually click them (but is it worth it?)

  • Your users are clamoring for them, or you have conducted A/B testing and have evidence they are effective


  • Encourage your users to share pages by creating engaging content with effective titles and good metadata

  • Do not implement sharing buttons; users will share organically

  • Make sure content pages use best practices and social sharing meta tags to control the appearance of links in social feeds, to utilize features like Twitter Cards, preview images, etc., using the Metatag module for Drupal 8. See Appendix A.

Appendix A: Metatag module for Drupal 8

The Metatag module allows you to automatically provide structured metadata, aka "meta tags", about a website. The module provides support for meta tags (Open Graph Protocol from Facebook, Twitter Cards from Twitter, etc.) that allow control of how content appears when shared on social networks. The Drupal 8 version of the module integrates functionality from several different Drupal 7 modules that targeted specific social networks.

Even if social sharing buttons are not used on a website, it is strongly recommended to optimize pages for sharing across the most popular networks. This module streamlines the process of collecting the necessary information and correctly writing it in meta tag format in content pages. However, the number of fields required to fully accomplish this for multiple networks is large, and it will be unrealistic to require content editors to fill on every page. It is possible to set default values using Drupal tokens, but additional conditional auto-population will be required (in a custom sub-module, for example) to make this useful and efficient for a large body of content. Additionally, unused fields should be hidden to prevent distraction and clutter when editing content.

As an example, the fields listed below are used by Open Graph. The Twitter Card section contains even more fields. Clearly not all are appropriate for use on the Portland website, such as Book author, ISBN or Book tag(s). Others are specific to certain content types and must be automated in a custom module if we want them to be automatically populated.

Open Graph fields in the Metatag module:

  • Determiner

  • Site name

  • Content type

  • Page URL

  • Title

  • Description

  • Image

  • Video URL

  • Image URL

  • Image secure URL

  • Video secure URL

  • Image type

  • Video type

  • Image width

  • Video width

  • Image height

  • Video height

  • Content modification date & time

  • Latitude

  • Longitude

  • See also

  • Street address

  • Locality

  • Region

  • Postal/ZIP code

  • Country name

  • Email address

  • Phone number

  • Fax number

  • Locale

  • Alternate locales

  • Article author

  • Article publisher

  • Article selection

  • Article tag(s)

  • Article publication date & time

  • Article modification date & time

  • Article expiration date & time

  • Book author

  • ISBN

  • Release date

  • Book tag(s)


  • Implement Metatag module in POWR project

  • Develop strategy and rules around its usage (i.e. use on all pages or just some pages? Use different Twitter Card types for different content types?)

  • Perform further research on use of the various meta tags and networks that utilize them, and determine which ones we want to utilize

  • Metatag module automation and customization:

    • Create standard social sharing image fields, and use Metatag module defaults to auto-populate metatag image fields using tokens
    • Create a custom sub-module that can programmatically determine which type of Twitter Card to render, pre-populate location data in Open Graph fields, and other network-specific options
    • Add custom logic to hide unnecessary fields and options.

More information

Metatag project page

Metatag features



1 Luke Stanley, “Reasons not to have a Twitter feed on your homepage,” Resource Techniques, 20 November 2013.

Finn Taylor, “What’s the value of putting Twitter on your homepage?” LiquidLight, updated 2 March 2017.

Andy Crestodina, “Social Media Integration: 3 Website Mistakes That Cost You Visitors,” Orbit Media Studios, n.d.

Author unknown, “The need for mobile speed: How mobile latency impacts publisher revenue,” Think with Google, September 2016.

Nyla Smith, “The best way to incorporate social media on your website,” Brand Strategy, 28 October 2014.

Luke Stanley, “Reasons not to have a Twitter feed on your homepage,” Resource Techniques, 20 November 2013.

John, “The Importance of Social Media Share Buttons - Even If You Don’t Do Social Media,” WebWise Design & Marketing Blog, 13 April 2018.

Jason, “Social Buttons = Poor UX,” StoryWeather, 14 October 2016.

Graham Francis and Ashraf Chohan, “GOV.UK social sharing buttons: the first 10 weeks,” GOV.UK, 20 February 2014.

10 Kimberlee Morrison, “Report: Social Share Buttons are Useless and Unused,” Adweek, 11 May 2015.

11 Mohita Nagpal, “Removing Social Sharing Buttons Increases Conversions. Yes, You Heard That Right!” VWO Blog, 10 January 2014.

12 Rand Fishkin, “Should SEOs & Content Marketers Play to the Social Networks’ ‘Stay-On-Our-Site’ Algorithms? - Whiteboard Friday,” MOZ, 19 January 2018.

13 Mohita Nagpal, “Removing Social Sharing Buttons Increases Conversions. Yes, You Heard That Right!” VWO Blog, 10 January 2014.

14  Alfred Lua, “What the GDPR Means to Social Media Marketers,” Buffer Social, 8 May 2018.