This is a question that you may be pondering in your blogging journey. After all, writing amazing articles is just the start of creating a successful blog or website.
To answer this question, I’m going to be comparing two plugins that I am very familiar with, Grow and Social Warfare (plus three more alternatives towards the end).
At the time of writing, I am using Grow on this website (Outofthe925.com) and on my travel blog (Padkos.co). Both are on the paid plans, and I recently had Social Warfares paid plan as well, so this should put me in a good position to talk about the pros, cons, and which of these plugins you should go with for your website.
If you have already looked into both these plugins for WordPress, then I’ve put together a brief verdict on my winner and why I think you should go with them. For those of you that aren’t that familiar with the contenders, let’s dive right in and get started with Grow by Mediavine.
Grow by Mediavine
Grow (formerly “Social Pug”) comes in two variants, free and premium. The free version is full of useful tools to get you started on your blogging journey, but if you’ve already gotten your foot in the door, the premium plan will provide you with the majority of features you may be looking for in a social sharing plugin (plus loads more!).
The Grow plugin is ideal for users that want great-looking social sharing icons straight out of the box and aren’t interested in dealing with pesky style sheets. This does limit the design options slightly, but you’d be hard pushed to not be satisfied with one of the options available.
One of the most powerful (and useful) features you get with Grow is the ability to easily display social proof (in the form of share counts) on your articles and site. In a world full of influencers and shareability, articles that have a proven track record are taken a lot more seriously compared to those that do not.
Grow by Mediavine is not just about social sharing though, you’ll find some of the most customizable social sharing features available from a WordPress plugin. Custom pins with custom descriptions, multiple custom pins for a single article, hidden pins, custom social media descriptions, just to name a few.
In addition to social proof, fast loading time is vital to getting and keeping visitors on your site. Grow ranks amongst the best in this regard, with an additional load time of just 0.3 seconds on the test site over at WP Rocket.
I’ve been using Grow (formerly Social Pug) on this website since 2019 now, and I’m sure you haven’t noticed any page lag caused by the plugin. 😉
As I mentioned earlier, the plugin comes in a free variant and a premium option.
With the free plan you’ll be able to add social share buttons from the four major social platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. This can appear inline (at the beginning or end of your article) or floating along the side of your article as the user reads through (not on mobile). The free plan also offers the benefit of social proof with the option of turning on social counts for the inline and floating social icons.
That’s it though, for the free features, it may be all you need, but if you’re in the market for some added features, the Grow pro subscription may be the one for you.
A single license (i.e. for 1 website) costs $34 per year, which equates to less than $3 per month.
Let’s take a look at what you get with the pro plan and some possible cons that may turn you off of Grow below.
- Comes stock with great-looking buttons and a few stylish options.
- Customizable button labels.
- Easily add click-to-tweet boxes in your posts via shortcode.
- Integrated analytics and link shortening.
- 14 of the biggest social networks integrated (plus email and print).
- Minimum share counts that only show once a set number of shares has been reached.
- Mobile Sticky buttons (Great for a Whatsapp share button).
- Use shortcodes for social share buttons anywhere.
- Popup Social Share Buttons (one of my favorites).
- Built-in migration tool from Social Warfare (which will keep all your social media descriptions, images, etc. intact).
- Refresh your social share counts easily and recover shares if you transferred your website from HTTP to HTTPS, or changed your post’s permalink.
- Lightning-fast loading times to not slow your site down.
- Pinterest button on images when hovering over (you can set the min image dimensions so that non-Pinterest images do not get posted).
- Built-in social media follow widget.
- Built-in top shared posts widget, showcasing your most shared posts in any widget area on your website.
- 1 Plugin.
- Only 4 social networks on the free plan.
- Have to sign up to TwitCount for Twitter counts.
- Limited design options.
Like Grow, Social Warfare comes in two variants, a free and premium plan. There are quite a few similarities between the two, but I’ll get to the differences a little further below to help make things clearer. Both of these plugins can do similar things, and after a quick cursory view on a webpage, you could mistake them for one another quite easily.
Social Warfare has 8 design options out of the box and you won’t have to fiddle with any CSS in order to make your site look amazing with your new social sharing buttons. The free plan allows you to include social sharing buttons from 5 of the largest social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Mix.
With the free plan, you receive a number of added benefits, namely; social buttons before and after content, floating buttons, shortcode embeds anywhere, social proof, a popular posts widget, and click-to-tweet boxes.
The pro version (premium plan) is an additional plugin that brings with it additional features, such as hovering Pinterest buttons, additional social networks, customizable button shapes and colors, custom descriptions, minimum share counts, and more.
When it comes to talking about the Social Warfare plugin there are two massive elephants in the room. Updates and security.
Although the issue has been patched now, Social Warfare had a security issue early in 2019 which made many sites vulnerable. WordFence released some details on that particular issue here.
In addition to the security issue, there have been numerous problems occurring on users’ websites when updating the plugin. This hasn’t happened to all users and has only been an issue on my websites once, but it is a problem that should not happen.
With all that said, I have seen the problems diminish since the security issue came about, hopefully, this was the eye-opener that caused further testing before updates are launched. This is still an incredibly powerful social sharing tool with a wide range of features, one of the best-looking button layouts, and a generous free plan.
For the pro plan, a single license (i.e. for 1 website) costs $29 per year, which equates to less than $2.50 per month and is even cheaper than Grow (but not by much).
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of Social Warfare below before I highlight the main differences.
- Generous free plan.
- Very affordable at $29/year for the pro plan.
- Great variety in design customizability.
- Option to create your own style via your theme’s CSS.
- Built-in popular posts widget.
- Custom descriptions for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- Analytics tracking and link shortening through Bitly.
- Share recovery if you migrated from HTTP to HTTPS or if your permalinks have changed.
- Fast page loading times as well.
- Use shortcodes to embed share buttons anywhere.
- Ability to enable buttons only after a set dimension (which can be good for mobile only or desktop only settings).
- Have to sign up to TwitCount for Twitter counts.
- Security and update issues in the past.
- 2 plugins (free and pro).
- No popup share buttons.
Grow vs Social Warfare: Main differences
These two social sharing plugins have a similar set of pros, with features being mostly identical, it can be quite hard to choose between the two. Social Warfare has been around for a bit longer than Grow, but with the security and update problems, more users have ventured over to the more stable Grow.
Grow by Mediavine even has a built-in tool to migrate directly from Social Warfare so that you don’t lose your Pinterest (and other social media) custom descriptions and images. You may have 100+ articles on your website, which could take a while to have to manually re-enter yourself, so that’s a massive bonus if you’ve been on the fence about changing.
I waited for this feature in particular before moving this site over, it took about 2 minutes to complete and all I had to do was hit the migrate button. 😉
Apart from the stability, another feature can be seen directly in your plugins. Social Warfare comes with 2 plugins if you’re using the pro plan, one plugin is the free core version, and the second is the additional pro plan plugin.
In comparison, Grow comes with one plugin, regardless of whether or not you’re using the pro or free version.
The size difference for page load times isn’t much, as highlighted in the WP Rocket test I mentioned earlier, but I have found that practically when updating Social Warfare manually, both plugins can be a pain when there are issues as one updates and the other doesn’t, or you would have to download the plugin from the social warfare website directly and manually install the updated version.
Both plugins share some annoyances, one being the requirement to sign up to TwitCount for Twitter share counts.
A major difference Grow offers that Social Warfare doesn’t is the ability to add Pop-Up Social Share Buttons. These can appear on the screen when a user does an action, like clicking a link, or simply appear after a percentage of the page has been scrolled or the visitor is heading towards the exit door. Another difference is Grows social media follow buttons widget, this can eliminate the need for other social media follow widgets, which can trim some weight off of your site.
Social Warfare provides more flexibility when it comes to design, but Grow has some great options out of the box and the added benefit of editable labels (something you cannot do with Social Warfare).
Additionally, Grow has a separate mobile floating bar that you can set for more mobile-friendly social networks, like WhatsApp, Twitter, etc. whereas Social Warfare allows you floating social buttons on mobile, but you cannot alter them from your desktop socials.
Social Warfare is cheaper for one website, costing only $29 per year, whilst Grow is slightly more expensive at $34 per year. Both offer plans for multiple websites, with Social Warfare costing $89 for 5 sites and $349 for unlimited sites, whereas Grow is $130 for 5 sites and $180 for 10 sites (Grow does not have an unlimited sites plan).
Lastly, a new feature introduced to Grow is the ability to add hidden Pinterest images to your posts. This is a useful feature if you have multiple Pinterest images and don’t want to clog up your entire post with them. It’s also something that Social Warfare doesn’t have.
Touching on this last point, Grow (formerly Social Pug) is regularly introducing new features that the community has been asking for.
Comparing this to Social Warfare, at one point I started to think that some features had been removed and the plugin was going backward. It all seems to be operating as it was a year ago now though, but the progress has been on correcting mistakes built into the app and nothing actually new has been introduced from the end user’s perspective. It was a great plugin, just seems to have been neglected in the wrong areas for too long and now they’re playing catch up.
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There are many more social sharing options, I’ve tried many and none have come close to Grow or Social Warfare, for that reason, I cannot recommend any of those.
Jetpack was one of those, it’s also the first plugin I uninstall from a WordPress website because of how it clogs down the site speed and/or quality. Uninstall, there are much better plugins that can do everything plus loads more for free. My 20 best WordPress Plugins cover the lot plus loads more. 😉
Anyway, I can’t recommend any alternatives from my own experience, but based on feedback from other bloggers and generally good reviews, the following 3 may be worth your time if neither Grow or Social Warfare fits your bill.
If you have read through this article you’ve probably already realized that. 😉
The added features available in Grow, along with the additional stability are what wins it for me. As I’ve mentioned already, Grow seems to be leading the way with new features whilst Social Warfare is working on stabilizing their plugin.
The only reasons I would consider Social Warfare for one of my websites, or why you may consider it for yours, is the added features on the free plugin, or the price of a single pro site…. Although, let’s be real if you can pay that $29 per year, you can pay the $34 per year as well and it will provide far greater value.
Which is the best social sharing plugin for WordPress? Grow is, and for all of the reasons listed above, I’ll be moving any of my remaining Social Warfare subscriptions over to Grow.
This was intended to be a comparison between Grow and Social Warfare, but it turns out there wasn’t much to criticize on the Grow front and plenty to dig into on the Social Warfare front. Don’t get me wrong, Social Warfare is a great plugin when it is working correctly, so hopefully, they get their things together and keep improving on a strong plugin.
I’ll be sticking with Grow, but I’ll keep my eye on Social Warfare, waiting for something awesome (and stable please) to be released.
Which social sharing plugins do you use on your sites? Or have you had any troubles or wins with Grow or Social Warfare? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
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