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Today’s post is an incomplete answer to the third and final question posed by fellow blogger Susieee! Mac (“What are the most important icons/widgets/gadgets to add to my blog?”). In fact, the complete answer to that question is so large, it will likely take weeks to answer it. For now, however, it’s icon time.
Let’s get right to the point: Icons on your site are like rhinestones.
Using a few icons properly can add visual sparkle and draw attention in a good way. But learning to add social networking and bookmarking icons to your site is like buying a BeDazzler and learning how to use it. All aflutter, filled with excitement from your new rhinestone-setting skills, you can very quickly wind up with the web equivalent of this:
First, two distinctions, that may or may not be used by anyone else on the planet this way (but they should), which I have created for the sake of my own ontological well-being:
- Social Networking Icons: These icons are used to connect with the owner of the site (that’s you!), via email, Facebook, Twitter, RSS feed, etc.
- Social Bookmarking Icons: These icons are used by readers to share your site/page/post with others, either their friends on a social networking site like Facebook or with relative strangers on social bookmarking sites (aka linking sites) like Digg, Stumbleupon, Netvibes, etc.
In other words, some icons on your blog connect the reader to you, and some icons connect you to your reader’s friends and followers.
Choosing the best social networking icons for your site is simple—just offer the methods by which you’d like to connect with your readers. If you don’t want them making friend requests on Facebook, don’t offer it as an option. If you want random calls from readers in the middle of the night, share your Skype handle. It’s really up to you.
Choosing the best social bookmarking options is a whole other bag of night crawlers. There are hundreds of these sites, all squirmy and eager to get hooked into, so choosing which ones to embrace is a tough decision, one that should be made based on good stats analysis or reader demographic surveys—or good old-fashioned guessing, if you like that sort of thing.
The safe bet: go with the big ones until you can learn more about your readers. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and Stumble Upon are currently the top of the heap when it comes to link sharing services, so they’re more likely to be used.
(NOTE: WordPress.com users, Add to Any is really your only viable option, and there are some hurdles to leap in order to make it work. Click here for instructions!)
And then there’s the issue of finding and choosing the icons. There are thousands of options, most free, from great to ghetto to gaudy to god-awful, depending on your personal tastes.
Want to find free icons? Here are my favorite resources:
Alright, I’m delirious, rambling, and my stomach is far too full of ribs and frankfurter and hamburger and sun-heated potato salad and baked beans and bacon-wrapped jalapeños and cheesecake and rum cake and brownie. On the inside, I look like that bedazzled shirt above.
On to the poll:
Tomorrow: THE END?!