Almost every website we build these days includes social media connectivity. Whether we’re adding ‘sharing’ buttons to content pages, or posting links and headlines to the firm accounts, social media connections are expected to happen (or encouraged) whenever new content published. Two years ago, firms would have considered this to be a choice, waffling back and forth. But that seems to have ended. This kind of connectivity can now be considered “part of the plumbing”.
Our company has been designing sites for WordPress since we started back in ’07, and to say we’ve “tested” a few plugins in that time would be an understatement. When it comes to social media integrations, I think we’ve tried it all — from the vendor’s standard widget buttons, to external sharing services, to custom coding the functionality ourselves. On the automated publishing side, we’ve tried several RSS feeding services to route new content out to social media, and published directly to these same accounts via installed plugins. Most of these tools worked, to varying degrees; and a few were bombs from the outset, and were quickly discarded.
Integrating a website’s publishing with social media is, of course, more difficult than it needs to be. The major networks like Google and Facebook don’t always play nice with each other, and some have released functionality at an incredibly slow rate. (Lookin’ at you, G+.) There also seems to be an ongoing feature competition between providers. Just as you think you have the right tool in place, another company comes along with a new ‘must have’ problem solver.
As an example, Hootesuite was one of the first external tools that allowed you to push content via an RSS feed into a Google Plus (“G+”) brand page. There were a lot of developers out there grabbing accounts, solely to take the burden off manually publishing to G+.
The makers of WordPress, Automattic, were also early to figure out G+ publishing within their Jetpack plugin, which led me about a year ago to give it a try. We had a client who was on WordPress.com and wanted to switch over to a hosted version of WordPress. The two issues we wanted to address were: 1) the client liked WP.com statistics and was looking to keep those numbers, and 2) direct publishing to a G+; we wanted to experiment with Jetpack’s new G+ publishing capabilities.
I had always heard that Jetpack slowed websites down (truth is, it probably does), but the performance wasn’t all that bad, especially if you could utilize Jetpack to consolidate functionality, removing a few duplicate plugins along the way.
The results on the statistics side were as expected. The stats module did a great job of mimicking the numbers shown on WP.com, and offered a nice supplement measure to Google Analytics.
The surprise, however, was on the social media side. Jetpack’s Publicize seems to do it all. Clean looking share buttons — that just work — out of the box. Plus, you can route your latest blog post or news items out to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus (business pages AND personal profiles), and LinkedIn automatically. You can also show a link to your G+ profile right on your posts, and integrate email alerts.
Jetpack might not be for everyone, but for a lot of you reading this post, installing this plugin will be a solid addition to your WordPress website. Automattic seems to be keeping up with the latest changes from the big social networks, and introducing that functionality quickly into their product. It’s also very modular, making it easy to customize.
WordPress Plugins come and go, but this one is leaving me with a good feeling. It’s one of the most trustworthy plugins we’ve used to date.