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.

Only 29% really “liked” Zuckerberg on SNL

The number on Mashable’s post about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing on Saturday Night Live claimed that 1,333 people “liked” it by 12:15 a.m on January 31. The truth is that the like button was pressed only 384 times, 269 comments were left on Facebook about that post and the link was “shared” 680 times on Facebook walls and pages.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ksablan/5403519435/

I used my RealShare tool to find the real Facebook counts.

I apologize if I’m beating a dead horse here, but I thought it would be helpful to just pull out another example to illustrate how misleading Facebook button counts can be.

  • No, I won’t assume that the 680 people who shared the link genuinely liked it.
  • Yes, I’d be ignorant to believe all 269 comments were made by people who liked the link.
  • No, 269 comments do not equal 269 people.
  • Yes, Facebook should change the wording or the count so that the statement about how many people like a particular page is correct.

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.

Install

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.

RealShare

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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ksablan/5369930236/

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.