Facebook “like” count 39% accurate

The number of “likes” usually displayed alongside the Facebook like button is really an aggregate of shares, likes and comments. This morning, I took an arbitrary mix of Facebook related stories and found that the actual number of likes only accounted for a 39% of the number displayed. This is by no means scientific, but I think it’s noteworthy.

Why does this matter? Because news sites are publishing factual inaccuracies in articles that say things like “100 people recommend this” when in fact only 39 people did.

Here are the stories that I looked at this morning:

All told, the like buttons claimed that those pages were liked or recommended 4,622 times. In fact, they were liked or recommended only 1,790 times.

In case you didn’t click on the first link in this post, I got the real “like” numbers by using my RealShare tool.

Feel free to take a look at the data in my malformed Google Doc.

18 thoughts on “Facebook “like” count 39% accurate

  1. This is quite misleading. I really thought Like meant Like and here comes Putnam (and Facebook) who says that I was fool.

    According to Facebook, even a negative comment would add to the likes. This is very bad. Moreover, this is a notorious move from Facebook to promote their comment system.

  2. This is really easy to test. I did it like once on my site (http://oim.ae/oivideo) I click on "Like" and it posts a comment my facebook. Then i went to my facebook profile and deleted the shaed link. When I went back to the site, I was able to click "Like" again. If you do this a few hundred times, (or using the API do it automagically) then you can make it look like the site is trending, but its really not.

  3. JohnH,

    Either works in this context. Just because you expect to see 'all told', doesn't mean is has to be that way.

  4. My friend developed the "Not-Like" application, so you could give a negative comment on things. Recently he got a letter from Facebook saying that this app was not liked (pun intended) by Facebook, and does not correspond with their philosophy and business interest. His app was shut down. Way to go Facebook, we'll just keep on liking death announcements and earthquakes in Japan…

  5. Next time you decide to do high school statistics…
    Be sure to do your research first.

    You were able to use the REST API yet
    Did you even read the documentation for the plugin …
    A like button is not a like count. It is just the name of the plugin.

    What makes up the number shown on my Like button?

    The number shown is the sum of:

    The number of likes of this URL
    The number of shares of this URL (this includes copy/pasting a link back to Facebook)
    The number of likes and comments on stories on Facebook about this URL
    The number of inbox messages containing this URL as an attachment.

    Real statistics should be backed by references.

    • "A like button is not a like count. It is just the name of the plugin." That could have been another title for the post. You're absolutely right, and it looks like I failed to make that point. The button is not a like count, but I think most readers and publishers/sites don't realize that.

      Categorizing the stats as "high school" pays a disservice to high school educators who would never hold this post up as an example of stellar data gathering. Yes, this is not a scientific study, consume with small grains of salt.

  6. Hey Kevin,

    Now that the "Send" button exists and has replaced email this to a friend, there's even more we know is pushing to that "like" count. On Mashable, they also say this:

    "Another important detail: Send counts toward the total number of Likes a page has. The Like total is now calculated by adding the number of Likes, shares, comments and inbox messages containing a URL."

    Inbox messages? Wow… http://mashable.com/2011/04/25/facebook-send-grou

  7. The only way you can tell the total likes, shares, recommendations etc. either for your whole page or just one of you page is if you use http://www.totallikes.com This has to be the best analytics tool for your whole domain. I don't know any other, not even facebook insight that would tell you the total likes of your entire domain.

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