The Monarch Social Sharing plugin claims to be “a social media plugin with style.” It lets you “take social sharing to the next level.”
These are bold claims, at a time when everyone’s talking about social sharing and there are lots of existing plugins to help boost your social media impact.
Does Monarch live up to its advertising?
Without extensive testing against other contenders, I can’t say. But I can show you the pros and cons, and walk you through how to use it.
Note: As an affiliate for Elegant Themes, I earn a small commission if you purchase the Monarch Social Media plugin through one of the links on this site. Despite that, my opinions are my own.
Monarch comes from Elegant Themes, which is one of my two preferred theme designers. It’s included in the $89 fee for an annual developer subscription, but you can’t buy it as a standalone product.
Despite that, you can install and use it with other themes. I’ve been testing it on my sandbox site, currently running the Twenty Fourteen theme that comes bundled with WordPress.
Download and Install
Log into your Elegant Themes account, scroll down to Plugin Downloads, and select Monarch, then Download.
Then install it the same way you install any downloaded plugin. (Full instructions here.)
Once it’s installed, click the Activate link.
Setting it Up
This plugin gives you loads of options, so take a few minutes to think about how you want your site to look and how you want readers to interact with it.
To set it up, click the Settings link on the Plugins page, or in your Dashboard Menu, select Tools/Monarch Settings.
The first part of Monarch is social sharing. Those are the buttons that make it easy for a reader to share your content.
Monarch offers buttons for over 20 different social sites. Use as many as you like, and arrange them in any order by simply dragging and dropping.
- Open the Monarch Settings page by selecting Tools/Monarch Settings
- Select Social Sharing
- Select Networks
- Click the Add Networks button
- Select your desired networks from the list that appears, then click Apply.
- Once you’ve added all your networks, drag and drop to arrange the order you want them to appear
Note that Locations is listed above Networks. I suggest working with them in this order, because until you’ve selected your networks you won’t see anything displayed on your page.
Monarch offers five different locations for your social share buttons:
- Sidebar (left side only)
- Inline, either above or below your post, or both
- Pop Up
Once you select the location (remember to click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page), click on the corresponding menu item on the left to set up even more attributes.
For example, if you choose Sidebar, select the Sidebar menu item.
Here you can choose the icon style, shape, display and color settings. This gives you a high level of customization.
Do this for each location you select.
The icons don’t need to be identical for each location. You could use square icons in the sidebar, for example, and round ones for Media.
The Media setting is a little different from the others. For one thing, it only displays on posts, not on pages.
Since it’s different anyway, it would have been nice if the designers had allowed for different network choices for the Media setting. Instead, an icon for each network you’ve chosen pops up over each and every image, making it difficult to see the image sometimes.
These are the buttons you’ll use to encourage readers to Like or Follow you on social media.
You can create a Widget to show your icons in widgetized areas like your sidebar or footer.
Choose your Network
These might be the same as the networks you chose for the Social Sharing buttons, or they might be different.
Select Social Follow, then Network. Add networks in the same way as above, then click Save Changes.
You have over 35 networks to choose from here.
Choose your Widget
Because you’re not making choices for separate locations as you did with your Social Sharing above, click on Social Follow / Widget to configure the buttons.
Now navigate to Appearance / Widgets to place the widget.
A shortcode is a small block of text inside brackets [like this] that instructs WordPress to display something. Specific shortcodes are built into your theme or plugin.
A shortcode gives you more flexibility than a widget, because you can place it anywhere.
To create your shortcode, click Social Follow / Shortcode. Choose your icon style, etc.
Then click the Generate Shortcode button.
Notice that a few lines of code appear in the text box below the button.
Scroll down to save your changes!
To place the shortcode, you’ll use your copy/paste commands.
- Copy the contents of the text box.
- Place your cursor in the post or page where you want to add the follow buttons
- Paste the shortcode
Here’s what the shortcode looks like in this example post!
Elegant Themes has give you many ways to customize your buttons. For a complete rundown of available choices, visit this page.
I tested load time for my sandbox site, which is not optimized for speed. While it slowed the site load time a little bit — as every additional plugin does — it wasn’t a big hit.
Without the plugin
With the plugin
If you already have a developer license for Elegant Themes, the plugin is included.
Very high marks for this feature. You can customize the size, shape, layout, and colors of the icons to create a highly individual look if you choose. But the basic choices are attractive enough you don’t have to, you can use them right out of the box.
Unlike most social sharing plugins which work only in widgetized areas or on a specific spot on your page, you can place these anywhere using the Shortcode.
Works with Most Themes
If you’re not already subscribed to Elegant Themes, $89 is a high price to pay for this plugin.
As mentioned above, the Media location could be problematic if you’re using more than a couple networks. Ideally, you should be able to choose a different set of networks for Media than for other locations. Like, just Pinterest or Instagram.
If you’re looking for a versatile, highly customizable social sharing plugin for your WordPress site, this is a good choice.