Remember the days of the hit counter? Back then, it seemed like every site would have a little number in their footer, showcasing how many people had visited their site over the previous years. The number was basically meaningless, of course. It was just an incremented graphic that rolled up each time someone – or something – visited the page. You could sit there and refresh the page to add to it, and sometimes you didn’t even have to. Even bots loading the page counted. They weren’t exactly well-developed scripts.
These days the hit counter is long gone, a relic of Geocities and hand-coded pages running frames. Still, I’m here to tell you that you can re-live the glory days in a new and interesting way. That way is through a share counter.
What is a share counter? You’ve seen them. They’re literally everywhere. Also known as a social sharing plugin, a share counter is a plugin for your site that runs social network sharing buttons. A share counter, specifically, allows you to showcase the number of shares a given post has when the plugin is active.
You’ll see these on just about every serious blog. Sometimes they’re under the post title, sometimes they’re a sidebar that floats down the page, sometimes they’re in the footer or the end of the post. They look different from case to case, but they all have two things in common. First are the social sharing buttons, ranging from Facebook and Twitter to huge piles of no-name social networks no one uses. The other is the number, next to each icon, showing the number of shares that link has.
I’ve seen some good plugins, and some bad ones. Some of the worst are almost hilarious when they fail. Ever seen a post with 20+ icons at the bottom, allowing you to share the post on every possible social media site, proudly showcasing the number of shares it has on every one of those sites? Most of the time, those numbers are straight zeros. I’ve also seen plugins with contradictory numbers, which will come up in one of the plugins I’m going to list.
Anyways, here are five of the coolest social counter plugins I’ve found. Let me know what you think! I always like to play around with new plugins, so if you love one I haven’t mentioned, let me know.
This is a fairly limited, fairly basic social sharing and counting plugin, but I consider it one of my top five, and mostly for one reason; the neat little leaf-shaped graphics. Most plugins just use squares or icons, but Cresta spices it up a bit with these leaf shapes, with little circles showing the number of shares.
Of course, that’s just one of the themes they have on offer. They actually have nine styles for the free version of the plugin, and up to seventeen for the pro version. They also have a range of different effects to make the plugins load, from a basic “load with the page, nothing else” up to fade ins and pops.
The free version is great for most sites, but if you want to customize it a bit more you can get the pro version. The price is in euros, and starts at five of them, which is about $5.50 USD. It’s not exactly a heavy cost for the pro version, so feel free to get it and see what’s up.
The only down side, potentially, to Cresta is the limited number of social networks. They work with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. That’s it.
This plugin is a little more robust than Cresta, though it’s not as stylish in my own humble opinion. It goes back to the traditional logo in a box with a number. On the plus side, you can use it with some PHP functions to customize what displays where, and it’s all easily displayed.
Social Count Plus has a couple of networks that not only aren’t normally included in these sorts of things, but are also rare for the “supports 50 social networks!” plugins as well. It has the usual Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Instagram. It also has SoundCloud and Steam, if your blog happens to be gaming or music related and you have groups on these networks.
Additionally, you can use the plugin to display the number of comments and posts made on your post. These aren’t quite as useful, but hey, it’s neat to have them all in one place.
Oh, and did I mention? Social Count Plus is free and open source. You can view the code – or even contribute to it – on Github.
Mashshare is the custom plugin made by and for Mashable, and as such it’s designed to fit in with their particular website theme. However, it’s also one of the most highly customizable social sharing and counting plugins on the Internet today.
Mashshare offers support for a lot of global social networks, making it great for international or foreign language blogs. You have your usual Google+, LinkedIn, Redit, Tumblr and Facebook buttons. You also have Digg, VKontakte, Xing and Weibo.
While the plugin is designed for maximum customization, it’s also designed to be as fast as possible. It’s not going to slow down your website, which is important for those sites that measure their latency in milliseconds.
Even though it’s named like Digg, this plugin is made by Buffer, which is pretty great. It’s also one of the most common social share counters on the web. You’ll recognize it instantly; the familiar hovering sidebar with a variety of different social network icons and numbers.
This is the one I mentioned way at the start, with a warning I’d talk about an issue later. The issue I’ve seen with using this plugin is that some people configure it to show both shares of their site as a whole, and shares of a given post. This can lead to having, for example, two different Facebook numbers. This would be all well and good, except there’s no way to tell which is which other than the number itself. They look identical on the sharing bar, which looks a little odd to me.
This is another more stylish plugin, and it better be; it’s the only one on the list that’s not free immediately. It only costs $15, but still, $15 for a feature you can get for free elsewhere is $15 you don’t need to spend unless there’s something special attached.
Thankfully, Arqam does offer something special. For one thing, it’s guaranteed to be supported with new social networks and bug fixes whenever a network changes their API. For another, it’s translated into a number of different languages. It’s guaranteed to work with all browsers and mobile devices, with a wide range of themes. It’s also incredibly easy to configure, with a visual drag-and-drop to set up your counters.
It also offers a layer of buffer. It stores the values of share counts for posts and social networks, in case something goes wrong with an API or a server connection that would otherwise break the connection.