One of the most basic lessons that I learned in marketing was to make things as simple as possible for visitors. See those buttons below? Look pretty familiar, right? Whether you call them buttons, icons or badges, these interactive elements that social sites provide make voting or sharing dead simple.

(Social itself isn’t so simple, so here are some tips you should know about it.)

Typically, sites either go the route of creating their own custom-designed social buttons or they add in the interactive social widgets that look like this:

While there is no right or wrong way to incorporate social media, I prefer using these interactive buttons for the following reasons.

Instantly Share

One of the strongest cases for using these buttons is that a visitor isn’t removed from the page when he or she clicks. You act within the page or a popup.

Many of these buttons (Facebook Like, Google’s +1 and StumbleUpon) allow for instant voting, something that custom icons cannot do. Even the Facebook Share button and Twitter’s Tweet button keep people on the same page while they can perform the share in a popup. Simply put, these buttons save visitors’ time and keep them on your site.

Instantly Follow

Not only can you share, you can follow. Whether it is Twitter’s Follow button or Facebook’s Like button for your Facebook fan page, interactive buttons can connect companies and fans off-site instantly. One of my pet peeves are links that say “click to Like us on Facebook” or “click to follow us on Twitter” only to send me to (and leave me at) my Facebook or Twitter page. Make it easy for your audience to connect by using the vendor badges.

Gauge Content Quality

Interactive buttons also show vote and share totals, which is one factor that people can use to quickly decide what content to look at. Big numbers show popularity and, often, trustworthiness.
For example, if I have time to read only one article over at CopyBlogger, I might take a look at the descriptions, and make my choice based on user votes (as shown on the social badges):

So I might check out “The Most Dangerous Threat…” and save the other article for later. This is true for features and functions including extensions and downloads.

They’re Uniform

Visitors know what’s going to happen when they click on vendor buttons. They’re going to “like” content, “tweet” an article, or ” +1″ something, and that’s all.

Custom social buttons too often leave people unsure of what will happen. Will they be taken to your company’s Facebook page? Will they be sent to Tweet via TweetMeme?

My Favorite Buttons For Any Site

I like buttons that are interactive and have many options to choose from. Here is a short list of buttons that could work for any site:

Google +1
: This button now syncs with Google+, making it even more powerful.

Twitter’s Tweet: 
This allows for customization to gain more visibility for your Twitter accounts as well.

Facebook Like: This is a very versatile button that can be customizable to your liking.

Twitter’s Follow: 
Great for getting visitors to follow you on Twitter in one click.

: If you have engaging content on your site, this button can make social bookmarking simple for people who use StumbleUpon.

So, that’s why I love interactive buttons! They are simple, powerful and familiar. You might even use them here to “like” or share my post!

Check out the SEO Tools guide at Search Engine Journal.

Don’t Re-Invent Social-Media Buttons. Please!