Last updated: April 2013
Another recent WordPress security scare involved the popular plugin, Social Media Widget. This was one of my favorite plugins and was dismayed to hear it had been compromised and could inject malware into a website. As soon as WordPress.org found out about the problem an update to the plugin was issued to correct it, and it was yanked from the repository so it could no longer be installed. Since then, the developer of the plugin has profoundly apologized (scroll down the thread to read his response) and explained that he hired some programmers to work on it and they committed the evil deed without his knowledge. The safe version of the plugin is now back in the WordPress repository and available for use. However this has left many people skeptical about using it, and therefore looking for alternatives.
This plugin provided you with a new widget that would display icons with links to your social profiles. Those can be quite easily hardcoded into a text widget if you know HTMl, but for most clients, that’s too fiddly and difficult to update or edit. Social Media Widget was the perfect solution. The great thing about this plugin was that it offered a very comprehensive selection of social profile icons, in different sizes and with some nice rollover animations. You could even upload your own custom icons.
As yet I haven’t found another plugin to match all these criteria but here are my three preferred alternatives:
Social Web Links
Social Web Links has a very broad selection of social profiles, but if you don’t see the one you need on the list you can add it yourself, or you can also add your own custom icons to replace the plugin’s defaults. It includes the usual social networks in addition to many that are less commonly found such as Amazon, Spotify, Lanyrd, Lastfm, Slideshare,and many others. There are no rollover effects on the icons, but if you use obscure social networks, this could be the plugin to go with. It also allows you choose whether to display the icons horizontally or vertically, and with or without displaying their names.
Simple Social Icons by Nathan Rice
The nerds out there will appreciate that this plugin takes a different approach than most. Instead of using actual images, it actually uses a font. If that has no meaning to you don’t worry. What it means for the regular person is something quite cool – you can easily control the color of the icons to match your site and can easily apply a different color on rollover. You can specify the size to anything you want and are not restricted to the usual 16, 32 or 64px sizes. The set of social profiles included seems complete without being overwhelming – all the major ones are there including Pinterest and Instagram. The plugin is by a very respected developer Nathan Rice, so you can have peace of mind when using it.
This plugin is not in the WordPress repository, meaning you won’t find it when you go to Plugins >Add New and search. You have to get it from their website in exchange for your email address (they haven’t spammed me yet). They are a WordPress theme development team that I had heard of before and they make some pretty sweet-looking themes , so I wasn’t too concerned about downloading it, but I do still wish it was in the WordPress repository since generally that makes me feel safer.
The selection of social profiles offered is expansive and the icons look really sharp. There are no rollover effects but if you don’t care about that, it’s a good choice. For the more technical of you, they also provide a shortcode and a php template tag so you can show your icons pretty much anywhere in your theme.
Brankic Social Media Widget – Offers a choice of about 50 social profiles, but each instance of their widget seems to only allow for 8 to show up. This would be more than enough for most people, but it seems like a strange restriction. Instagram was NOT included and there is no choice of size. The widget looks pretty slick but the other plugins noted above seem more flexible. Only use this if you don’t need Instagram and like how it looks right out of the box.
Tested but decided against:
Social Media Icons Widget – I think I tested this because it was one of the first that came up in the search. It functions OK but overall just seems outdated and a bit limiting. It does have several sets of icons you can choose from, which the other plugins do not offer – this is really only useful if you’re going for a more novelty look rather than a modern look. However the social network selection is missing both Instagram and Pinterest.
Do you have a fave social media widget plugin that I haven’t listed? Share with the class in the comments!