This is a sponsored review.
Late last week, Elegant Themes released their latest plugin, Monarch, in an effort to help you increase social sharing (the number of people sharing your content) and social following (the number of people following you on your social networks) on your site. Before I start going into it, they put together a quick video, which gives an overview of the kind of things that you can do with Monarch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8rdbI3nqZQ I have to say that I was a little apprehensive when I heard that Elegant Themes were releasing a social sharing plugin, because this is a really heavily catered-to category in the plugin arena. Social plugins are ten-a-penny, right? Well, having seen Monarch in action, I was pleasantly surprised by how they had clearly put a lot of thought into the design of the plugin, as well as the admin interface. The. Buttons. Are. Gorgeous. These are by far the most striking social sharing buttons that I’ve seen. They’ve used flat, bold colours for their buttons, each one in a colour familiar to the network in question (think Facebook blue, Pinterest red).
Social sharing buttons
Elegant Themes have included 5 different ways for showing social sharing buttons on your site:
- Sidebar – a fixed set of icons at the edge of your page that scroll with the page so that they’re always available.
- Inline – display a block of buttons at the top or bottom (or both) of each post.
- Pop up – a modal window pops up with a block of sharing buttons.
- Fly in – A little window slides into view with your social sharing buttons inside.
- On media – When you rollover media, social sharing buttons pop up over the top, allowing users to share your post using the media they’re looking at.
Each display location has a host of setup options to give you fine-grained control over how the buttons should appear. This covers how they look, when they should show up and how they should work on mobile devices. For example, you can set the fly in to display when a user reaches the end of your post, which is particularly useful, because for users who are really engaged and have read your whole post, they are quite likely to want to share your content, so giving them a little prompt with a fly in is an excellent way of increasing social sharing. Each sharing location is just as configurable. You can choose from different button designs, set whether or not the buttons should include the number of shares the article already has (or only show them after a certain number of shares have been reached), change the animations, use custom colours and CSS and set ways to stop showing pop ups or fly ins to users when they close them, so that you don’t annoy your visitors.
Social following buttons
Monarch also provides you with a widget and a shortcode which you can use to place your follow buttons wherever you choose. You can include follower counts and you have the same elaborate control over the appearance of the buttons as well.
The admin interface is really nicely laid out, intuitive and simple. It’s obvious how to select which networks to show, how you want your buttons to appear and what your options are. They also have a really gorgeous stats interface so that you can see how well your social sharing buttons are doing. This is great for you stats junkies, or for doing some A/B testing and seeing which types of buttons are working out better for you. Furthermore, there’s even more fine-grained control inside each post or page, where you can override the main plugin settings. For example, when editing your contact page, you can turn off social buttons on that page, since it’s not really a page that you want shared, while you want all other pages to have the buttons show up.
It is clear that Elegant Themes put a lot of thought, time and effort into this plugin and I’m pleasantly surprised with the end result. It’s definitey something I’ll be considering using on my own sites. The plugin also uses best practices when it comes to how it’s been coded, like caching sharing counts (to stop it from slowing down your site on every page load). I didn’t notice a slowdown when I loaded pages on my site. They’ve also given decent consideration to how Monarch works with mobile devices. They also took the time to put together some really thoughtful and in-depth documentation to help you with every aspect of the plugin. I wish they had the ability to add your own social networks, or sharing options, because personally I love Pocket and wish I could include a button for that, but that is not currently possible. Despite that, this has been one of the most impressive social plugins I’ve ever seen and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Who knows, I may even use it right here… Monarch is one of several plugins created by Elegant Themes, all of which are free to their members. Their current cost for an annual developer subscription to their site is just $89 which gives you access to all of their plugins and themes (there are almost 100 themes in their gallery, including the immensely customisable and popular Divi theme). If you’re not already an Elegant Themes member, it’s well worth looking into, and if you are, then go and download Monarch now and start playing with it. You’ll love it.