Internet retailers like social media

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Facebook buttons on 71% of top online shops

Social media recommendation buttons are now featured on the majority of successful e-commerce websites and are more popular than simple sharing plug-ins, according to new research.

US shopping search engine TheFind teamed up with online publisher Search Engine Watch to reveal the results of a survey of the 1000 most popular internet retailers.

TheFind's data showed that of the top 300 e-commerce sites, 71 per cent use a Facebook 'Like' or 'Share' button, while 58 per cent feature Twitter plug-ins. Relatively new brands Google+ and Pinterest stand at 24 per cent and 9 per cent respectively; while general sharing tools AddThis and ShareThis are at 19 per cent and 5 per cent.

Implementation methods were also highlighted, as rather than the old model of one or two general sharing options - for example, 'Share this' allowing interaction with Facebook, Twitter and more - retailers are opting to feature particular social brands.

Varied uses for social media buttons

In this respect, Facebook is leading the field - but no consistent strategy by retailers is yet apparent. The purpose of buttons varies, with some companies using them to direct visitors to their social media profile pages, whereas others use them to promote a specific product. TheFind's co-founder and chief executive officer, Siva Kumar, highlighted the fact that 50 million product pages have the Facebook 'Like' button code while only 1.8m products have one or more 'Likes'.

Usher Lieberman, TheFind's director of corporate communications, added: "It's also worth noting that the role of a Facebook 'Like' button is much less ambiguous than the Facebook 'Share' button. The 'Share' button is a discursive tool, which not only requires the user to take the additional step of posting a comment in order for the button to work, but also means that users can share stuff 'ironically'."

This means that some people may be sharing information about a product to ridicule or disapprove of it, rather than recommend it.

Google+ takes a different approach to Facebook and Twitter, with an aim to use '+1' actions to inform the personalisation of future searches for logged-in users - but it is not yet clear how effective this has been.

Tom Glass, creative director at theEword, said: "The use of social media buttons may be widespread, but it is also still evolving. It may be some time before a best practice emerges. It will also be interesting to see whether Google's alternative method helps it to tackle Facebook's dominance in the e-commerce sector."