TL;DR: This is my Monarch Social Sharing plugin review. In it, I go in depth through the plugin’s features, pros and cons, pricing, and even do performance tests to see what sort of toll the plugin has on the website it’s on.
Monarch Social Sharing, from Elegant Themes, is a plugin that has been one of the mainstays in the social media division of WordPress. Actually, it’s hard to even find a list post that doesn’t mention it if you do a quick search on Google for “top social media plugins for WordPress.”
Well, okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but the Monarch plugin has been getting a lot of praise on the web nonetheless!
Therefore, the question is this: Is Monarch really as good as everyone says?
But let’s start at the beginning, as they say.
So what is Monarch exactly? – i.e. what you should and shouldn’t expect from it.
To put it simply, Monarch is a plugin that provides you with a set of social media *share* buttons and social media *follow* buttons.
Under the hood, Monarch is a standalone WordPress plugin. This means that you just need to get it, install and activate it, and then you can start using it right away. It’s not one of those SaaS solutions disguised as a plugin (cough! SumoMe) that are very popular nowadays.
Like I said, there are two main components to Monarch:
Let’s see what’s in each:
Setting up the share buttons is the first thing you’ll be doing after installing the plugin. Monarch gives you a nice set of options here, with five main locations for the buttons:
You can freely choose which locations you want to use just by clicking their corresponding “tick” symbols. Apart from that, each location also has its own settings panel, where you can tune up all the fine characteristics.
For instance, you get to select an icon style for the buttons – Monarch has a set of really nice pre-designed icons that are unique to each location.
Also, every location has a number of parameters that can be adjusted, and this goes both for the design/display and the behavior of the buttons.
For example, for the sidebar, you can set the orientation of the whole thing (left, right), intro animation, whether you want to display share counts or not, whether you want the total number of shares displayed, whether you want to hide the whole block on mobile devices and more.
And, of course, you can choose where you want the buttons displayed:
Each location has a slightly different settings panel, but they all follow the same layout and general idea. Hence, everything is quite easy to grasp. Here are the settings for inline and pop-up, just as an example:
Okay, so locations are one thing, but what about the networks supported?
The Monarch plugin’s promo materials boast about its huge number of supported networks, and … I have to give it to them in this review, the list is rather impressive. There are actually more than 20 networks supported … and some of them I’m seeing for the first time (which only proves that Monarch guys have really been on top of what’s out there).
Anyway, you probably only need 3-5 networks, so let me just assure you that they are all there:
Enabling the networks is simple as well. Just click “Add Networks,” then the “tick” symbol next to the network you want, and then “Apply.” If you want to, you can change the network’s label too.
Lastly, how does it all look?
I mean, things like design often come to your personal preference, but Monarch has made it their mission to give you buttons that just look good out the box, with no need to adjust anything via CSS or whatever. You just jump in, pick the ones you like and you’re done.
So the final result, like I said, is nice and predictable – just like the plugin’s website advertises. Here’s what I got while working on this Monarch plugin review:
The other component to Monarch is their social follow buttons.
In simple terms, those are the buttons that your visitors can click to follow you right from your website.
Much like the share buttons, Monarch’s follow buttons are very nice too:
The configuration is also nearly the same.
I’m saying nearly because dealing with follow numbers these days is a major pain. Each network has their own API, and you need to sign up to most of them before they will ever share your follower numbers with your WordPress website.
Everything starts in Monarch’s settings, under Social Follow. The panel is very similar to what we saw under social share buttons:
To enable a new social network, just click the big button and then select the network you want. The interesting thing here is that Monarch features even more social networks in its follow section than in the share section. In total, we have more than 35 possible network integrations.
Now, depending on the network you choose, the integration process might be anything from very simple, to very painful. However, as I mentioned, the fault is not on Monarch, but rather on the networks themselves. Monarch actually does whatever they can to make the process simpler. There’s even a user guide taking you through the difficult parts.
Once you do manage to enable your networks of choice, you can display the follow buttons in one of two ways: via a widget, and via a shortcode.
The widget is the most classic way of handling things and probably the most useful.
Just like with share buttons, here too you can pick the icon styles that you like, plus adjust some other details about the widget’s appearance and behavior:
For the shortcode, you get basically the same set of customizations as for the widget, which is great. Once you have everything tuned, just click on “generate shortcode.” You can then take that shortcode wherever you wish (posts, pages, etc.).
The cool thing with the shortcode is that the settings you’re adjusting aren’t global for all shortcodes. They are just settings for the single shortcode that you’re about to generate. This allows you to use multiple slightly different shortcodes throughout the site.
Setting aside the share and follow buttons, Monarch also has some other very interesting features to offer. Let’s just run through them quickly:
Okay, so with all those features, there has to be some toll on your site performance, right? Let’s find out in this next part of the Monarch plugin review.
My testing site is a rather basic one (Twenty Fifteen, Jetpack + a handful of plugins installed, no caching). In its default setup, the results I’m getting:
The difference is around .5 of a second. Depending on your own standards, this might be a lot or not at all. However, those are just the realities of embedding social media elements on your site – getting them from the network in question always takes a while.
Overall, I’m happy with these numbers, and wouldn’t worry about Monarch’s server resource consumption.
Here’s a handful of things that I like and dislike about the Monarch Social Sharing plugin.
In a sentence, to get the plugin, you need to shell out $89.
However, there’s a little more to that story. What actually happens is that you don’t pay for the plugin itself directly but for a whole Elegant Themes yearly membership. This gives you access to all of Elegant’s themes (including the excellent Divi), plugins, all updates, and support for one year. You can also then use those themes and plugins on multiple websites.
Note. Remember to opt for the “Developer” membership. The “Personal” tier doesn’t give you access to Elegant’s plugins.
Okay, so we know the price tag on this whole party + what features we can expect from the plugin. So the question is this: Is it worth the money?
I have a two-part answer for you … and it might surprise you, considering all I said above:
And sorry for giving you the most unclear answer of them all, but I really feel that the Monarch Social Sharing plugin is both great and unnecessary at the same time.
But hey, that’s just my review and opinion. What do you think? Is Monarch the most awesome social media plugin you’ve seen? Feel free to share in the comments!