Comparison of ShareThis, AddThis and Gigya (Now w/ Convio Integration!)

Integrating social sharing on your website can be as easy to implement as adding a script into your webpage templates.

I recently took a look at three of the most popular utilities for social sharing: ShareThis, AddThis, and Gigya. After conducting a review, AddThis came out on top as the best system for most users. Gigya, especially with it’s recent integration with Convio, might be your best bet depending on your needs.

Gigya, in addition to the standard social sharing options, also allows for Single Sign On, allowing users to bypass the standard account creation process. Instead, it allows users to use their Facebook, Twitter and other credentials and also allows for user interactions with the widget (e.g. sharing content) to be recorded in Convio. While it is highly powerful and customizable, be aware that setting up Gigya requires significantly more time and effort than setting up most social sharing widgets (even if you only use their social sharing features).

One concern with Gigya’s service is that sharing content through their widget prompts users to provide access permissions to their profile data on Facebook (see screenshot, right). While this may provide additional audience data, users may be wary of the privacy implications of this somewhat unusual request (for a sharing widget) and therefore it will likely have the effect of reducing clickthrough rates. Gigya also offers a simple sharing plugin which does not send a request for permission.

ShareThis and AddThis have had significant feature differentiation in the past, but as time progressed they have largely mimicked each other’s feature sets. Currently, there are a limited set of functional differences between them, primarily focused on default aesthetics and ease of customization.

  • Customization: AddThis is generally preferred by developers due to an API that is easier to use, but the ShareThis API can typically accomplish the same tasks (though potentially at a higher development cost). One of the few differentiators between the two services is in the customization of which buttons are shared. Both services, by default, show sharing icons to each user based on their previous sharing history (across all sites using the platform). If, for example, someone typically shares via MySpace on other sites, the MySpace icon will appear in the sharing box on the very first time that the user visits a site. It’s possible to force a listing of pre-determined icons using AddThis, but that level of customization is unavailable with ShareThis (or it is not documented).
  • Privacy Policy: AddThis received negative publicity several years ago for their use of a flash cookie which recorded a user’s browsing preferences across sites, with non-personally identifying demographic and historical visit information later being sold to advertisers. This practice is common among these services (including ShareThis and Gigya), but they received additional criticism due to the fact that the AddThis Flash cookie revived cookies that had been deleted. AddThis no longer engages in this practice.
  • Reporting: Both AddThis and ShareThis integrate with Google Analytics to report on sharing, but neither provides the user-level actions that makes Gigya compelling.

  • Clickthroughs: While there may be difference in clickthrough rates between these services, no testing has been done. Even so, scattered reports have suggested people find the AddThis hover menu to be easier to use than the ShareThis version.

AddThis widget (on hover) ShareThis widget (on hover)

Conclusion: Based on most organization’s needs, the easy extensibility of AddThis is probably ideal. If single sign on is desired, or tracking by user (with Convio integration), Gigya’s software may be the best fit.

For more sophisticated sharing (i.e. allowing people’s Facebook posts on a topic to appear directly on your webpage), check out Disqus or Echo.

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