It would take me many years to write over 10,000 top 3 worthy articles. Id suspect the new Penguin quality checks might have taken a nip at your traffic before I'd suspect social buttons. Even if your pages were all top quality it's possible that the pages linking to yours weren't. Have you checked your backlink profile in GWT?
You could always try removing the features and seeing if you rebound but I doubt that was the cause. Triple check everything else before removing them, imo.
I can't remember who but someone else said they thought adding a Facebook button hurt their ranking, and that removing it helped the pages recover.
I wouldn't expect the presence of social media buttons to hurt ranking directly, however some of those buttons can be slow to load. Combined with other delays, slow-loading buttons could contribute to a performance-based negative signal.
I was the guy that lost on the direct link to facebook site wide and then regained after removing it.
I have noticed by focusing on add social buttons that my users actual use and find helpful does help. It does take like 8 weeks to see gains.
I would give it a few weeks to see if G just reacted to the massive code change. I notice that I always lose with site wide changes and then weeks later it comes back.
I also lost rank when adding dedicated facebook buttons. I removed them and the pages improved. The ADDThis button that includes FB AND G+ seems to be OK, but I've still lost over 6,000 search terms, so I may try to remove it too to see if things clear up. I suspect just adding G+ by itself would help. If that's the case, I'd be thoroughly disgusted.
Not sure why some sites are experiencing this, maybe it's Google's way of telling you that you better start using G+ instead of FB.
Since almost every web site I visit these days has links to Facebook and other social networks, one heck of a lot of sites are being demoted (or what ever you want to call it) if adding links to social sites like Facebook are a negative signal.
Not all social button bars are equal. Some are notoriously slow. There's one in particular that I've encountered which has a very bad rep. I won't mention the name publicly... but I've seen that removing it noticeably improved loading speed... and fixing that and cleaning up a bunch of other page speed problems (along with duplicate content issues on the site) is resulting in steady improvement in traffic.
I've never just removed social media buttons by themselves, so I can't comment on the effect of fixing those alone. Many sites I've reviewed have had humongously large images and way too many http calls, and cleaning up those problems definitely helps.
Check this thread for several page speed tools, etc, which can be extremely helpful in checking out what's happening....
Favorite SEO Tools
Social media like buttons (FB, Twitter, Google +) have a very negative impact on page load time - Page speed is becoming a indirect factor in rankings. It could also be a direct factor.
On the other hand, these buttons increase 'social awareness'. I don't think any SEO knows how # of likes affect the ranking of a particular page.
I have seen some brands removing these button while other (news sites) still using them, and tend to remove them as my sites are evergreen ones.
I've seen some research about social media that may help those struggling with what buttons to add and how to add them. The research shows that even companies with large SM budgets don't do well if they spread themselves over more than 2 or 3 SM channels.
The conclusion seems to be - pick the channels that work for you and focus there. If you're just starting out you might experiment, but just passively stringing out SM icons may be a negative thing. Even enthusiastic customers may get turned off if you invite them to a SM channel and then do not engage that channel actively.
I too removed my social media buttons after a drop in serp's on the pages I implemented a WP Social plugin, I thought this was related to the slow down in page speed, although at the back of my mind I was suspicious it was simply because of a change in site wide links as someone previously mentioned and maybe I should have waited it out.
I'd like to get them back on the site but I am nervous, why can't I just host a facebook or G+ button graphic on my site and then only call the code when a user clicks on it? Or am I missing something which is already available here?