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:
- CNN: Facebook event: Let’s dump trash at Boehner’s pad
Claim: 2,071 recommends. Actual: 650 recommends (plus 769 shares and 653 comments)
- GigaOm: Facebook Open Sources Its Servers and Data Centers
Claim: 593 likes. Actual: 291 (plus 232 shares and 70 comments)
- TechCrunch: Facebook’s “Open Compute Project”: Their Server/Datacenter Expertise Now Open To All
Claim: 580 likes. Actual: 386 likes (plus 150 share and 44 comments)
- Mashable: Homeland Security to Issue Terror Warnings via Facebook & Twitter
Claim: 578 likes. Actual: 120 likes (plus 245 shares and 213 comments)
- Politico: Joe Biden’s daughter trashes birther Donald Trump
Claim: 143 like. Actual: 70 likes (plus 47 share and 26 comments)
- Engadget: LikeLight lights up your likes with Legos, Arduino (video)
Claim: 143 likes. Actual: 70 likes (plus 54 shares and 19 comments)
- Today: New tool helps clean up your Facebook reputation
Claim: 106 recommends. Actual: 40 recommends (plus 50 shares and 16 comments)
- WSJ Digits: Facebook Won’t Become E-Commerce Force, Analyst Says
Claim: 101 likes. Actual: 34 likes (plus 51 shares and 16 comments)
- TIME: Obama Opens 2012 Campaign on Facebook
Claim: 96 likes. Actual: 34 likes (plus 48 shares and 14 comments)
- USA Today: Facebook plea persuades man to donate a kidney
Claim: 94 recommends. Actual: 51 recommends (plus 28 shares and 15 comments)
- All things D: Facebook’s Rise Is a Big Deal for Media Sites. For the Rest of the Web, Not So Much.
Claim: 55 likes. Actual: 22 likes (plus 24 shares and 9 comments)
- Slate: No More Privacy Paranoia
Claim: 62 likes. Actual: 22 likes (plus 32 shares and 8 comments)
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”
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.
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.
It is “all told” not “all tolled” — see http://www.word-detective.com/2008/04/11/all-told/ for more details.
Thank you for the catch. I will correct immediately.
JohnH is right, SeanD is wrong. Not sure why I care.
You care because correctness and accuracy matters, especially when it concerns matters of correctness and accuracy. Thank you for caring.
Either works in this context. Just because you expect to see 'all told', doesn't mean is has to be that way.
Okay, it looks like I'll be holding off on that correction. Thanks, Sean.
Wow. Can't believe Facebook thought that people wouldn't get wise to this.
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…
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.
Kevin, you handled that with such class, 5 "likes" in my book.
Thanks. I try.
As i said yesterday, i have written about your "Facebook “like” count 39% accurate" in http://www.e-siber.com/sosyal-medya/facebook-bege… page. And i have translated your RealShare to Turkish in http://www.e-siber.com/dosya/gercek-facebook-bege…
Thnks, best regards…
Thank you for sharing the information with your readers.
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…
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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