Facebook button count is wrong, use RealShare

That number next to the Facebook share, like, or recommend button on most blog posts and articles is just plain wrong, so I’ve created the RealShare bookmarklet to show the real Facebook statistics for any web page.


Drag the RealShare button below to your browser’s favorites/bookmarks bar (scroll down for a video showing how to do this), then visit any web page and click on the RealShare button to see the actual number of people who have shared, recommended, or commented on that page.


What’s wrong?

Facebook’s Like Button plugin instructions provides an option to display the “total number of likes to the right of the button” but the documentation for their Share button explains that they really aggregate three numbers: “the total number of times the page was shared on Facebook, how many comments were added to the story shared on Facebook, and how many times friends Liked the shared story.”

In the screenshot below, it appears as if this story about WoW addiction was shared 313 times. The RealShare button reveals that it was actually shared only 138 times. The inflated number reflects those shares along with the 35 times the post was liked/recommended and the 140 comments left about that page.


What to do

Does the misleading number in that Facebook button put you at risk of losing credibility with your readers? Every reputable news provider (including independent bloggers) should answer that question. I’ve just disabled the Facebook button on this blog, and I hope you consider doing the same until Facebook fixes this accuracy and credibility problem.

Installation video

Thank you to Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) for asking the question, Clint Watson (@clintavo) for reporting the news back in July, and for All Facebook for its Facebook Like Count Calculator that inspired me to create this little tool.

28 thoughts on “Facebook button count is wrong, use RealShare

  1. I don't think Facebook's method is inaccurate, and here's why:

    If you shared a story on your facebook page and I then liked that story, something on my wall would pop up saying "Nigel liked this link on Kevin's wall." And then if someone else comments on it, something would pop up on their wall saying, "Debra commented on this link on Kevin's wall"

    So even though Debra or myself may not have clicked the share button, the story is still getting spread out to our Facebook friends. It's indirect sharing, if that makes sense.

    • I understand that the item is still being "shared" in some way, but definitely not in the way that the button implies. This is even more of a problem when looking at the likes/recommends button. It is extremely misleading to say x number of people "recommend" something when that number can include hundreds of comments, some of which might include comments that basically say that the reader does *not* like the article or post.

      What is really questionable is the fact that the numbers attached to each button were originally reflective of the buttons. If an item was shared 5 times and recommended 12 times, the "share" button showed 5 and the "recommend" button showed 12. Why was that changed?

  2. I never knew that! That is madness and Facebook really should fix it. Just checked my site and indeed you are correct. I installed the Facebook Like button earlier this month and it says I have 18 likes. Go and check it out yourself, as you will see it's actually only 6 :(

    I am not going to disable it yet, but I do agree with you that it is a bit odd. Although without having loads of buttons, how do you get around this?

  3. Nigel, the problem is if you click the like button and then go like it on your wall as will it will count that as two "likes" , it doesn't distinguish that you already liked it and it's possible to continue inflating the number this way.

    I don't have a problem with the way Facebook counts the number, I have a problem with the wording when it says "xxx PEOPLE have liked this". It should just say "like count: xxxx".

  4. Hi Kevin, this is really useful. I'd love to chat with you on Skye one day soon or at least exchange emails because I have so much to say about your bookmarklets that the comment box doesn't do me justice :)

    I will ask you this, are you familiar with Dan Zarrella and some of the experiments he has done using inflated RSS feed counts and Tweetmeme counts? If not, let me know. It's very interesting to see how people react and what they call "social proof". He draws several conclusions about how the counts influence people to share your content or not. I don't agree with all of his findings but I do find them intriguing.

    The other thing I can't leave without saying is thank you so very much for creating RealShare and BackTypeStats bookmarklets. I recently entered a personal finance blogging contest and the retweets and Facebook shares are being counted towards determining the winner. Now I feel like I can have accurate counts based on these tools!

    Got any more goodies? :)

    • I am familiar with Dan's work, but have not read up on those experiments in particular. I'll need to check it out. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

      You're very welcome for the bookmarklets. I usually create those things for myself and later realize that it might be something that others might find useful.

      I'll shoot you an email so we can chat more.

  5. Would this also apply to 'Sexy Bookmarks' FB share button? It would be interesting to see the real stats on pro blogger sites if they switched to the RealShare plugin, some may even get a nasty surprise. :o)

    • I'm not familiar enough with Sexy Bookmarks to be able to answer that question. If they facilitate the use of the "default" Facebook share widget, then the answer is probably yes. Thanks for stopping by, Maria.

  6. Kudos for the find, Kevin, and for creating the bookmarklet. (Was it easy to create, btw?)

    Any idea why Facebook implemented the inflated count?

    • Thanks, Ari. The bookmarklet was actually very easy to create, because I frequently build little bookmarklets for personal use. I don't know why Facebook decided to implement the counts this way, but I'm about 99% sure that this was a change since the initial launch. I remember at that time seeing different numbers next to the share and like buttons. I don't know when or why that changed, and whether the reason was made based on tech or business considerations.

  7. Love the tool! Found it through Ari Herzog and it answers a curiosity I have experienced but never took the time to examine. Will definitely be talking about this on the show next Tuesday.

  8. Hi Kevin,

    Love this bookmark! So much easier than using API call or Facebook's "test console" to pull these numbers for a given page. Thanks so much for sharing the goodness.

    I discovered the issue myself about a month ago — was trying to figure out other aspects of the Graph API and reading documentation, got to thinking about the superiority (for a content-level page) of a Share over a Like, and bumped into the fact that the Like button was in fact displaying the "total_count" value, e.g. the sum of Likes, Shares, and Comments. Pretty amazing that this is STILL out there — I mean, how many millions of sites and widgets are using the Like code?

    Question: You wouldn't happen to know if it's possible to pull all "everyone"-permissioned content of Facebook shares — e.g. the sharer's comment and any subsequent comments from friends — relating to a URL, would you?

    • I'm glad you've found the bookmarklet useful. Unfortunately, I don't know of any way to get to the permissioned content that you mentioned. I wish that was available. It's one thing to know how many comments have been left, and a whole other incredible thing to actually see what those comments say.

  9. Since you are able to use Javascript to pull the actual numbers, you can just display it next to the button in text and just display the Facebook like button without the count.

    Facebook should really let us customise the way counts are displayed.

    • Right. You would also have to hide the number that comes attached to the button. FB doesn’t (yet?) provide the button without the count.

      • I placed the iframe within a div of 52px with overflow set to hidden. I wrote a second comment explaining how I got the effect.

        • Ah yes. The tinyurl in your other comment is returning an error (AccessDeniedRequest). Can you try shortening and sharing again. This is kinda exciting.

          • http://i55.tinypic.com/oek5d.png

            This is how my like button looks like. One good thing is that it allows customisation of what the text says, so one can set it to display the exact number of shares, likes and comments.

            (Sorry, just an image and no live URL because the site is targetted to people in my country and foreign visitors make my job a bit harder tracking my traffic.)

  10. http://snipplr.com/view/37613/get-the-number-of-f

    I'm using the above code to display just the Like button. I put the Like Button iframe into a div of width 52px and set the overflow to hidden so only the button shows. With some modification of the above code and some styling, I am able to show the actual number of people like the post – http://tinyurl.com/449wpdr

    It's a clumsy workaround but at least the stats are accurate. It doesn't update dynamically when someone clicks the button, nor does it show if any of your friends have liked it before.

    I'm trying to find a way to get it to display share_count too but my PHP isn't that great so it'll take a bit of trial and error.

    Until facebook fixes the count I suppose this is as best as we can get. I think this has been an issue for some time and facebook does not seem to want to fix it.

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