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Which is the Fastest Social Sharing Plugin For WordPress?

Everyone wants social sharing on their sites but a lot of social plugins can drag down your site’s loading time. So I set out to compare the popular ones and find the fastest.

Testing Environment

This was not an experiment to try and squeeze the optimal speed out of the plugins, but simply to get a sense of the impact on speed they would each have. So I wasn’t concerned with creating a highly optimized environment:

  • I used a shared hosting account (Bluehost, if you must know), similar to that which many of our customers use
  • Dummy content for the site was provided mostly  by the theme unit test xml file.
  • I added WP Rocket, and only had one sharing plugin active at a time.
  • The only other plugin running was Query Monitor which is only on the backend.
  • Tests were conducted while running the Twenty Fifteen theme.

So while most sites would be more plugin-heavy than this, again the idea is just to see what impact simply adding one of these plugins would have. Your mileage may vary depending on if you have a better or worse host and the specific plugin configuration you choose, but you will still get an idea from this set of results of the relative impact. There are some clear ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in this race.

Speed Tests

I’m interested primarily in load time as measured with Pingdom. All tests were done using the Dallas location. Secondarily I’m interested in page size and then requests. Page size is generally a better predictor of speed than the number of requests. So you want the plugin that adds the least amount of weight to your page.

Plugin Configuration

Not all the plugins had the same options. Some offer the ability to place sharing buttons at the top and bottom of the post, whereas with others you could only pick one location. Some offer even more features, placement and styling configurations. Where possible I picked 6 social buttons and placed them at the top and bottom of posts.

The Results

I did two tests for each plugin and began with a benchmark with no social plugin, just with WP Rocket. So this is the baseline from which we can assess the impact of the plugins. In the Speed 1 column I list the fastest time.

The Baseline

Social Sharing Plugins - Benchmark

The Top Performers

Fastest Social Sharing Plugins

Social Media Feather, a basic Monarch configuration, Simple Share Buttons Adder and Mashsharer come out on top.

They each added a negligible amount to load time and page weight. I would say that while Social Media Feather is the fastest, the design of the icons was a little dated for my tastes. For a cleaner, more modern look go for Simple Share Buttons Adder. Mashsharer is more limited. It’s modeled after Mashable’s sharing buttons which have a clean design but the free version of the plugin just gives you Facebook, Twitter and Email. If you want more choices, you have to go to the paid version.

If you are willing to pay for a social plugin, Monarch from Elegant Themes  has the most configuration options  and a beautiful design. You can choose various ways to add your buttons, including pop-ups, fly-ins, sidebars etc along with multiple styling options. Even when mixing and matching ways to display sharing buttons, as you’ll see below, it’s always pretty fast.

Solid Performance

Social Sharing Plugins

These plugins aren’t quite the fastest, but none of them are particularly heinous. In truth, my cut-off between these and the top ones was a little arbitrary. For example, the two configurations of Monarch and Jetpack here could have been included in top performers, but in general you can see the page size generated by this group of plugins starts to creep up a little.

Monarch does make calls to admin-ajax.php (I think this occurs if you choose to show the share counts on the buttons) which, while not completely detrimental, probably ding its performance a little bit.

If you are already a Jetpack user, using  the “icons + text” option can be a simple solution to social sharing without having to add a new plugin.  Sharify is another good choice. It’s really nicely designed, but don’t expect extensive configuration options. Also, for some reason the developer chooses to output its stylesheet with PHP which is not really optimal for performance.

The Buzzkills – To Be Avoided

Social Sharing Plugin Buzzkills

So these guys are the ones to avoid.  The page load times all go over 1 second and they start adding some serious weight to your pages. On a live site that likely has several other plugins  in the mix, these extra weights will definitely start to add up.

One of the main culprits here is the use of the “official” sharing buttons (Jetpack, Really Simple Share):

official_buttons
This means the buttons that are provided by, and therefore loaded as 3rd party assets from each respective social network.So you can’t really use this kind of button if performance is a priority.

Ultimate Social Media & Share seems to be the worst of the bunch. I compared it to Simple Social Adder and you can see that it’s adding tons of JavaScript which is loading it down.

script-weight

ShareThis is a bit of a drag because it’s a hosted solution, meaning that most of the assets are loaded from their server and that slows it down.

What’s your favorite social sharing plugin? Have I missed an important one you would recommend? Let us know in the comments!

Header image courtesy Ben Grey

About

Lucy is a long time user of WordPress, (since 2004) and has provided WordPress training for bloggers and businesses for over 5 years. She has spoken at several WordCamps and is an active member of the WordPress community. You can follow @webtw on Twitter.

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48 comments

Comment

Hey Lucy,

Thank you for your test and your feedback, I was also considering doing those kinds of tests.

My favorite social sharing is not in your list : Social Warfare from http://warfareplugins.com/. Could you afford a licence and try it out?

Great list — thanks for putting this together. I would add that sharing buttons are only the start (or maybe the icing) of a social sharing solution. What does the post look like in the share popup, or once shared? How’s the title, description, image / video, author attribution, product information (Pinterest and Twitter), etc.? A plugin like WPSSO, which has no detectable impact on performance, would really tie things together (or perhaps NextGEN Facebook, which includes both meta tags and sharing buttons).

I might suggest that using a speed test tool locally, instead of an internet based one, would provide more accurate results. Also, you mention enabling 6 buttons, but some plugins do not offer 6 buttons, which gives them a certain speed advantage in your tests.

js.

Nice overview, but the fastest way for a speedy website are static buttons!

<a title="Twitter it …" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?source=webclient&text= ID)); ?>” target=”blank”><img style="width: 24px; height: 20px;" alt="Twitter it" src="/images/tweet.png” />

<a title="Share it …" href="https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=ID)); ?>&t=” target=”blank”><img style="width: 24px; height: 20px;" alt="Facebook Share" src="/images/share.png” />

<a style="width: 24px; height: 20px;" href="https://plusone.google.com/_/+1/confirm?hl=de&url=ID)); ?>&title=” target=”blank”>/images/google.png” alt=”Google+ Share” />

Using this Code in a Text Widget or wherever you like in combination whit WP-ROCKET, the fastest Cacher worldwide you i’ll have excelent values in page speed measuring! Google i’ll love it ….
Me too, i use them in combination!
Cheers from italy

WP Rocket Support Team

@Nicolas – Thanks for the tip! I’m not familiar with that plugin. Perhaps I will update the post in the future and include that and others I may have missed.

@JS – Thanks for your insightful comments! You are correct that sharing buttons are not a social strategy, but doing a full review of all features of the plugins was beyond the scope of this post. I feel that a local speed test is actually less representative of what most people will experience, because people will be accessing your website via the internet, not locally. I did mention in my notes that the configurations vary across plugins due to the different options that some provide. The differences between the slow plugins and the fast ones can’t really be attributed to less buttons though – the faster ones are just better implemented in general. Actually, with the exception of Mashsharer, all of the top ones won with 6 buttons, so it ended up not really being a factor.

No surprise at all. I removed Addthis from my WP powered sites, still keep it on few not WP sites, simply because it’s easy to implement. Anyway… Jetpack is a surprise for me. I thought its faster.

Most preferred is Easy Social Share Buttons

Why you did not test Easy Social Sharing Buttons?

I third Easy Social Share Buttons, right now I’m using them but they seem to have become a bit more bloated after some of the newer features which has made it convoluted.

None the less, it’s still pretty fast. I’m hearing great things about Social Warfare as well so I’m considering that or any other premium plugin that focuses on speed as well as some premium options like image sharing and responsiveness.

very nice post, i do not use in some sites social plugin, but and other i use jet pack

Using Social Share Starter by KK, Really simple with total share display without bloat.

How about SumoMe Share buttons? I switched to that from Shareaholic when I compared the site speeds for my site. SumoMe Share was faster. Thanks!

It’s always those little things that we don’t pay attention to most of the time that tear into our page speed! I’ve never even considered looking at the Share buttons as they usually come with the site theme, but now I’m playing around to see how much time they are using.

Thanks for giving us another aspect of our sites to check out that many don’t think about. I’m still amazed at how much better results I’m also getting with WP Rocket of W3TC with so much less work! It’s the first time in years, I’ve not been nervous when they’re a cache plugin update!

Awesome! I changed to Simple Share Buttons Adder from Shareaholic on one of my websites. Dramatic difference in site speed! Thanks!! I’m going to check this on my other sites, too.

I’ve been using Po.st (https://www.po.st/) for the longest time. Po.st prodives a handy social sharing tool that comes with analytics and insights. My blogs always score well in terms of Google PageSpeed. In other words, the tool doesn’t add tons of crap that slow down the blogs.

Po.st is free of charge. Just give it a try!

Nice test. We recently did a similar test with slightly different methodology using Webpagetest. Besides performance we also evaluated privacy and features here https://xhtmlized.com/blog/social-media-buttons-test-performance-privacy-features/

Interestingly, in our test Jetpack performed quite well, while Shareaholic and AddToAny didn’t. I think one of the problems is what should be the main criteria for evaluating performance. Since most of these buttons load asynchronously, we’ve tried to combine Speed Index, Load Time, Number of Requests and Page size both on document complete and fully loaded page events.

I also think we cannot just look at performance without looking at potential privacy issues. That reveals why many of these plugins do so many requests which they wouldn’t have to if they just provide plain sharing functionality. For example Shareaholic was the worst privacy offender with 12 cookies set and requests to 30 different domains.

As thewpcat pointed out above, and it was also the result of our test, the best for performance and privacy is to implement custom social media buttons using social share URLs. Number of shares can be implemented by querying SharedCount API or using a library like Barebones Share Buttons.

Can you have a look on this one, please?
http://codecanyon.net/item/social-share-locker-pro-wordpress-plugin/8137709

Is a great alternative on Social niche and if is working pretty fast, having the Locker feature included can be a good deal for everyone.

About the Ultimate Social, indeed, I’ve used for a while but disabled it ’cause of the resource consumption.

Thanks for including Simple Share Buttons Adder in the article. It inspired me to take speed one step further, I’ve just released Simple Share Buttons Light – https://simplesharebuttons.com/light/ – available now from the WordPress plugin directory – https://wordpress.org/plugins/simple-share-buttons-light/

Social Warfare, no competition. Lightweight, awesome optimization features, great support.

Great post – thank you. Turns out I have TWO of the slowest performing share plugins on my site!! Soon to be gone 🙂 Now … you have a sticky bar at the top of this page with share buttons on it. I love it! Can you tell us about that? Is it a plugin? Can we get hold of it? How fast is it?

@James: We don’t use any plugins for our sticky bar, it’s a custom code ^^ We are using a transient to store and display the share count.

Thanks so much for this excellent post! I’m looking for an alternative to shareholic because it drags down page speed. This is a great help.

Great post, thank you. I currently use ShareThis and am looking to put in something new — one of those you recommend. I wonder if you know any that include both the Like/Share Facebook button and also a Facebook button to Like/Follow the site — as at heavy.com. Thanks.

Thanks for taking the time to do this – very useful. My site was slowed down badly by a social sharing plugin and that’s how I found your post. My problem has been solved thanks to this.

Hi, good post. I was also worried about the performance of social sharing buttons on speed. Currently I am using add to any buttons. After reading your post I will experiment with other fast social sharing buttons on my blog http://apnatarika.com

Hi Lucy. Thanks for writing this useful article! I had a problem with slow loading times on my site. One of the culprits was my existing sharing plugin. After reading this, I first went with Social Media Feather, but it wasn’t showing share counts and I couldn’t see it as an option to turn on. Then I tried Simple Share Buttons Adder. It works really well. My site’s loading time dropped to below 1 second and I was a happy camper!

Simple Share is the best one.

Another vote for Social Warfare. I’ve only recently switched to but am liking it (and its speed) a lot.

This is not a very helpful test since it does not look at caching variables and the impact of increasing load. How well do these plugins do when there are 50-100 people hitting a site and clicking share/like buttons? That’s the useful question to answer.

Thank You sir for such detailed test. Finding the proper sharing buttons plugin been a nightmare to me…

Thank you for sharing this test. Looks like I will choose Social Media Feather for my social media follow button.
My current button is very slow.

If you ever do another test like this consider Lightweight Social Icons by Tom Usborne of GeneratePress. I have tried most and this to me is the best option: https://wordpress.org/plugins/lightweight-social-icons/

I wish I would have read this post before purchasing 1 of the top Code Canyon social sharing plugins. It’s full of features but it’s slowing down our page speed by at least 1-2 secs.

Going for a light social sharing plugin is a must. That 1-2 secs is page load delay is not worth it in terms of your bounce rate, conversions and SEO.

I really loved the way you have performed such an in-depth comparison. I don’t use any of the social media plugin your have listed here instead I use a premium plugin named Social Pug. It would be really interesting if you could add some premium social media plugin like social warfare and elegant theme’s Monarch Social Sharing Plugin.

Thanks for such a great post, looking forward to more such comparisons.

Thank you so much for writing this post! It was very helpful.

Social Share Buttons sets al bunch of cookies, bloats and contains malware. Please avoid using this plugin… https://wordpress.org/support/topic/unacceptable/

Very informative and great writing. I was looking for that kind of topic and finally got it. A big thanks to you.

What a useful and well written article… I’ve subscribed to Elegant Themes and never realized they had a plugin for social sharing LOL nor would I probably have worked that out without your help! What theme are you using for this website? Love the clean lines and breathing space… I am looking same wordpress plugins for my site Free Wall Arena please share if you have some useful links

Awesomeness! ~ I was using something else; that was lagging my speed big time. Just switched over to Feather and notice big changes already.

This was a very useful article. I have to second those, however, who raised privacy concerns. Since the publication of this article, two of the top performers, Simple Share Buttons and Social Media Feather, now make calls to ShareThis, which lowers PageSpeed and YSlow scores and increases load time more than I would have expected from your analysis. With Social Media Feather, though, I think that is a relatively recent change.

I started on a quest for a new social media plugin mostly because Jetpack’s calls to update the share counts were one of the big factors slowing down page loading. After spending a whole day trying plugins, most of which actually had a bigger impact on speed than what Jetpack was doing, I discovered that adding a simple line to the functions.php file (or through a plugin like code snippets) stopped the share counts and their associated loading issues.

WP Rocket Support Team

Hi William
This article was written well before Simple Share Buttons got involved with ShareThis 🙁 I was quite annoyed when they introduced that, however I believe you can remove the call to ShareThis by opting out of their Terms of Service on the settings screen.
This post could use a refresh, certainly 🙂
Thanks for your comment!

This was such a useful article and I found my current plugin on it, but yes it does need to be updated! I had Simple Share and it was slowing down everything by a whole second, switched to Light Weight Social Icons it’s a widget and was not impressed with the features and then to Social Warfare. Pretty happy with it, and there’s only .2 difference in speed. Not a lot of features in the free version but fine if you want simplicity.

I am using Monarch and It is awesome. The only con is ajax.php calls for total shares count. 2nd one is Social Warfare. I love the features. It is easy to use and have a good speed.

First of all thank you for posting. The plugin I am looking for is the one you are having on your website. Could you please let me know what plugin are you using.???
Regards

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