In this digital era it’s become practically a necessity to use social media to keep up to date with what’s going on and to share what you’ve been up to. If you run a business of any sort or simply like to showcase your work, you know that using social media is a great way to grow and expand.
However, if you’ve ever tried adding social media sharing to your WordPress site you probably ended up with those ugly and obtrusive buttons that just don’t look good. We always want our site to look awesome, and with the growth of social media it’s become a must to combine the two.
This was the inspiration behind the creation of Monarch – the social sharing WordPress plugin from Nick Roach and his team at Elegant Themes.It’s a fully responsive plugin that looks great on all screen sizes, from desktops to small mobile devices.
Below you can check out my review of Monarch and see for yourself how easy it is to use, yet how powerful it can be.
Monarch’s Options & Stylish Features
Monarch supplies you with a custom dashboard right on your WordPress site’s back-end. This custom panel is made to be as easy to use as possible and any beginner will figure it out in seconds with its intuitive layout. From it you can access and customise your data, settings and even your statistics.
Social Networks & Profiles
Monarch gives you the ability to display over 35 social networks & profiles on your site, adding and arranging them as you wish to create your own look. All you have to do is input the profile URLs and Monarch will display the network icon. It even pulls your follow counts if you want to show them off on your site.
Sharing Buttons’ Locations
You’re given a choice of 5 different locations (listed below) where to place your social sharing buttons. I’ll be going through each one in some detail further down in this review.
- Floating Sidebar
- Above or Below Content
- On Images & Videos
- Automatic Pop-Up
- Automatic Fly-in
Generating a shortcode is super easy with Monarch’s shortcode generator. You can place these shortcodes in any widget area or within any content by just copying and pasting.
Button Styles & Effects
You can play around with a few features of the social buttons. First of all you can choose from various button shapes, colours and hover effects depending on which fits your theme best. Secondly you get to choose whether you want to display the network names as well as the individual or total share or follow counts.
You can also pick the icon orientation; whether it’s above the network name, next to it, or alone without the network name. Lastly, you can even change the network colours. If you don’t want the default colours that come with each social network you can choose custom colours for each one.
Some other features
Besides all that, Monarch also supplies you with statistics. These show the amount of likes, shares or follows that accumulate through your social share buttons, giving you a better idea of the effectiveness of the plugin and how popular you’re getting.
You can also import and export Monarch data. If you want to use the same configurations on different sites you can just export and import right from the Monarch dashboard.
Setting it all up
Installing the plugin
The installation of Monarch is as easy as every other plugin. Just upload the zip file you got with your purchase, activate it, and you’re set to go. The Monarch Settings dashboard can be accessed from the Tools section in the WordPress dashboard.
Social Sharing Settings
Once you open the Monarch dashboard you’re sent straight into the Social Sharing section. Your first two options are Locations and Networks. You can see previews of them in the screenshots below.
Let’s get started with Locations. From here you can select any locations you want your social sharing buttons to appear; the sidebar, inline, pop up, fly in or on media. You can select any combination you want, from just one of them to all five. It’s as simple as ticking them and saving your changes.
Next we move on to Networks. You’re free to add as many networks as you want from the list currently available. Just select the ones you want to show and they’ll appear in every location you chose earlier.
The next 5 options are the five different locations where the social buttons could appear. Each one has individual settings that I’ll be going through after these screenshots.
Every location has got options for icon styles, icon shapes, display settings, colour settings as well as post type settings. You’ve got different icon styles to choose from, each with a different hover animation and you’re free to choose which one suits your theme best. The Icon Shape provides three options; a square, a square with rounded edges, or a circle.
Below are explanations of every Location and screenshots from a test site I put together to try out Monarch’s functionality.
Sidebar shows your social sharing buttons on the left hand side of your window. It’s got a few display settings for you. First is the intro animation; a choice between no animation at all, a fade in, slide right, slide up or slide down. Whichever you prefer.
Next you have options to display your share counts and total shares. You can even set a minimum count display; a threshold that must be reached for each network before a number is displayed, and the total shares’ text colour (light or dark). Finally you can add icon spacing and even choose to hide this location on mobile devices.
Colour Settings let’s you choose between using the default network colours or setting your own custom ones. You’re free to change the background colour, hover background colour, icon colour and even the hover icon colour.
Finally there’s the post type settings for you to choose on which post-types you want the social buttons to appear in this location.
Inline appears above or below your content (or both) and has got four different icon styles and the same three icon shapes as the other locations.
Display Settings on the other hand are a bit different. You’ve got the location to choose from with the options being above or below the content, or both. You can then choose whether to align the icons left or centred.
The other difference is the Display Network Names setting where you choose whether to show them or not, and whether you want the colour to be light or dark. You then have the same four settings as sidebar; display share counts, display total shares, remove icon spacing and hide on mobile devices.
It’s also got the same colour settings and post type settings as the rest of the locations.
Pop Up, Fly In & On Media
The gallery above shows you what each of these locations look like in action.
Pop Up delivers your social sharing buttons where it says; in a pop up window, while Fly In shows them in a small window at the bottom of your screen. With the same icon style, shape, colour and post type settings as the other locations, the differences appear in the display settings.
First of all you can add a Title and Message of your choice to add above the buttons. The display settings then vary slightly from the rest. You can choose how to align the icons and in how many columns. You can give both the pop up and fly in an animation and even enable them to show up automatically after a delay of your choice.
They can also be triggered in other ways, such as when the visitor is about to leave your page or as they arrive to the bottom of it. You can choose to display them just once per session, the length of which is your choice too, making sure they don’t annoy your visitors.
On Media displays the social buttons above your media as soon as you hover over it. The styles, shapes and colours are the same as the other locations mentioned above while the display settings are like those of the Inline location.
Social Follow Settings
The Social Follow Settings tab opens up three more settings; Networks, Widget and Shortcode.
As you’d imagine Networks is where you manage your network selections, adding network labels and usernames as you need. You’re also able to choose whether to open the links to the social media in a new window or not and whether to get the counts via API or input them manually.
Widget lets you configure your own Monarch widget to add in any widget area within your theme. Just like in the locations mentioned above you can select the icon styles, shapes, display settings and colours.
Shortcode let’s you once again set the options mentioned earlier and this time gives you a shortcode to embed the social buttons you create wherever you might want.
General Settings is a simple tab that only has two options. You can set the frequency with which the plugin grabs and caches the counts from social networks that support APIs as well as add your own custom CSS code.
Import/Export & Stats
The final two services Monarch offers are import/export and statistics, both of which can be found in the top right corner of the Monarch dashboard.
Import/export let’s you do just that with Monarch’s settings, giving you the chance to use them on as many installations of Monarch as you want.
Statistics is a great feature that shows you all your social sharing stats through Monarch. You have the total shares, likes and follow activity for the past 7 days, 30 days and 12 months, giving you a great overview of how useful the sharing buttons are.
As with everything else from Elegant Themes, you must purchase a license that includes all their themes and plugins. Plugins aren’t included in the Personal package, which is the cheapest, but is included in the other two.
The Developer package costs $89 but has a yearly fee while the Lifetime Access costs $249, without any yearly fees.
Conclusions & Recommendations
For something that creates such good looking and functional social sharing buttons you wouldn’t expect it to be so fast and easy-to-use. To be honest, before I began using Monarch I was expecting something a little bit more complicated to set up.
But I was immediately proved wrong. The unique dashboard is a breeze to adjust to and completely intuitive. It’s just all there, neatly organised for you to set everything up in just a few minutes.
It’s speed is also impressive, both on the back-end as well as the front-end. There’s no jitter in the animations and they all blend right into your site.
Then there’s the statistics; an ideal tool to keep track of the progress each social media is making all from one simple page.
What else can I say? I really enjoyed the ease with which I got to grips with this plugin. Go try out their demo for yourself and be impressed with Monarch’s functionality and varsatility.
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