Social Media Feather: a super lightweight Wordpress sharing plugin - gHacks Tech News

Social Media Feather: a super lightweight WordPress sharing plugin

I'm still working on the new Ghacks theme behind the scenes, and one of the things that I really wanted to tackle was to remove the old social media sharing plugin AddThis as it was making use of JavaScript which had to be loaded on every page load.

That did not add a lot to the load time of the website, but it did add something, and forced users to make yet another request.

I decided to look for a sharing plugin for WordPress that would not load external JavaScript to speed up the page loading time of the site.

I stumbled upon Social Media Feather after some digging around and it appeared to be exactly what I was looking for in first place. Part of the plugins descriptions contains this paragraph:

The primary goal behind the plugin is to provide very lightweight WordPress social sharing and following that doesn’t add any unnecessary burden to your site and especially on your users.

What sets WordPress Social Media Feather aside from the plethora of other social sharing and following WordPress plugins is its focus on simplicity, performance and unobtrusive impact.

In order to achieve this the plugin makes no use of JavaScript and as a consequence it’s really fast while still providing all the social media functionality you might need.

I ran tests on a local WordPress development environment and came to the conclusion that it indeed was as lightweight as the developer claimed it would be. It did not make external requests, and loaded only a couple of small social media icons on pages where it displayed the sharing options.

social media feather
plugin in action

The plugin can display sharing and following buttons on the blog. It usually makes sense to display sharing buttons on post pages, and follow buttons somewhere else to avoid confusion. The sharing functionality works nearly out of the box, but if you want to make use of follow buttons as well, you need to add the social media pages that you want followed in the settings.

Here you can also modify share links and titles for several services, change icon appearance, or add extra CSS styles to the icons.

The sharing buttons are not displayed by default, and you need to enable that either in the options, by checking the "display sharing buttons" preference, or by adding the plugin call to your WordPress theme template files directly. The plugin supports shortcodes as well that you can add to widgets or in posts directly, if you prefer that. I have used a shortcode to display the follow buttons on the right sidebar.

All functionality up to this point is free to use. The author has made available add-ons for the plugins that are not free but extend the plugins functionality. You can buy icon packs, a grey fade add-on, or a light prompt add-on which loads overlays with options to like, send or share when a user clicks on a social media icon. This will also display the number of likes a post has received then which the default button listing won't (since it is static).

Without that add-on, users are always redirected to a new tab page where they can enter a comment and click on the share button.

Verdict

The plugin is bare bones in comparison to sharing plugins or scripts that display the like count directly on the site. That comes as a price though as contents need to be loaded from various Internet sources which slows down page loading times.

Not loading scripts directly has a positive effect on privacy as well as Facebook, Google or Twitter do not get to know that you have visited a website on page load.

I have removed the big follow boxes on the sidebar as well, and replaced them with the plugin's follow icons instead.

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Comments

  1. Usman Khurshid said on August 26, 2013 at 10:31 am
    Reply

    You should also try out Floating Social Bar which is as lightweight as social media feather but offers more features and real good interactive buttons. Floating Social Bar only loads the buttons when a user hovers over the buttons. Otherwise, they are just images.

  2. Nebulus said on August 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm
    Reply

    Nice change, and thanks for sharing the info about Social Media Feather!

    I have one question, though… Why does your blog still try to use “connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js” at the beginning of body tag? Is it a leftover, or is it connected to Social Media Feather in any way? Thanks, Martin!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 26, 2013 at 2:24 pm
      Reply

      Leftover that I forgot to remove. It is gone now, may take a couple of minutes before caching catches on.

      1. Nebulus said on August 26, 2013 at 11:11 pm
        Reply

        Thank you! :)

  3. Colin said on September 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm
    Reply

    Thanks for this. I was looking for a similar solution, and stumbled on your post. I will try the plugin.
    Question is, does it help when readers are able to see the social media count? Also does it not add another layer of complexity for the user, if they have to visit a new page to leave a comment?

    Perhaps its worth getting the premium version of this plugin for those reasons. Or just use digg-digg, and expect that visitors are used to the slight loading delay….from literally every other website.

    It’s almost a case of eye-candy vs functionality. My only concern is that if one uses the free version of this plugin, and visitors have to go to yet another page, in order to like or comment, that is a potential loss of audience. Especially if they drop off afterward.

    All the same a good plugin, and I will try it out. Thanks.

  4. Rustic B said on September 23, 2013 at 5:25 am
    Reply

    Hey,

    I was wondering if you know how to choose which buttons to display in this plugin? I can’t find a way to remove the Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Email buttons..

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 23, 2013 at 7:49 am
      Reply

      You do that in the options. There you can select if Share & Follow, only Share, only Follow, or no buttons are displayed for each item.

  5. cheen said on November 14, 2014 at 6:42 am
    Reply

    how do i remove the feather icon from my bar? it says “by and then a feather icon” after it? Help! thank you!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 14, 2014 at 7:51 am
      Reply

      Uncheck the show feature preference in the options.

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