Facebook Like Counters, AddThis, & You

On Monday, around 1PM Pacific Time, Facebook had an issue with their comments and the counter for their Facebook Like button that made it appear for many people–including TechCrunch–that they had lost all their Facebook Likes.

Unfortunately, this was out of our hands since the problem happened on Facebook’s end. But I thought this would be a good time to explain how counter values work, and where those values are stored.

How counters work

Counter values for all services are stored based on the URL of the page. So, for example, the URLs http://www.example.com/index.html and http://example.com/ will have different counts because the URLs are different, despite the fact that they’ll display the same page.

Take a look at this image:

URL Diagram

If there is a difference in anything falling into the green sections, the counts for those URLs will be different.

There are ways around this; for example, you can set a canonical link tag or set the URL to share to be different, but if you do that, the counters will be the same regardless of the page you’re on.

So if you have the Facebook Like button on several pages of your site, and you don’t have any other configuration telling AddThis to use a specific URL you designate, each page of your site will have different count values.

Many people make the common mistake of thinking the Facebook Like button should have the same number of fan Likes on their Facebook Page. This isn’t true. The Facebook Like button doesn’t count Likes for your Facebook Page just like the Tweet button doesn’t count your Twitter followers, and the Google +1 button doesn’t count the number of people who have +1′ed your Google+ Page.

The Like/Tweet/+1 button counters specifically show the number of times the URL (the one you’ve configured to share) has actually been shared to those services.

The Facebook Like button counter also includes activity not tracked by AddThis analytics, such as likes, shares, and comments that happen on Facebook.com. Here’s a screenshot of what you’d see about your Facebook-related activity from your AddThis analytics page:

Content Detail showing Facebook Like breakdown

Counters are also served from cached servers to improve performance. So, for instance, you share something to Twitter, and then immediately refresh your page, the counter won’t be updated until Twitter’s counter server updates its cache.

AddThis counters work a little differently. We cache the values, but we also store the counter value in a cookie on your computer after you share, so users are reassured their share was registered.

Where counter values are stored

Each service — whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, or AddThis — stores its counter values separately. This means that the value you see in Facebook’s Like counter is only stored on Facebook’s servers, not AddThis servers. The same goes for the Tweet, +1, and all of our third-party buttons. So when you see that your counter reset without having made any changes to your URL, it’s almost always something that happens outside of the AddThis tool.

The only counter values AddThis stores are the ones used in our compact menu and our pill-style menu. That is, for:

<a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> 

and:

<a class="addthis_counter addthis_bubble_style"></a> 

Our Individual Share Counters use the services’ APIs to get the counts, so we don’t store those counter values either.

I hope this answers all your questions about counts, counters, and what happens when you see your counter rest. If you have any questions for me, feel free to post them in the comment section below, or look for me over in our support section!

  • http://www.sonicjar.com Sonicjar Music

    We are using AddThis on our website. Thanks for sharing these. I used to wonder that how come the number shows 4 when the like received are just 2. Additional ones are for shares. Love AddThis though

  • http://kitchen-bathroom-remodeling.com hamid

    so nice plugin i use it on all my websites..thanks

  • http://addthis.com/ Ifdy

    Glad the post was helpful. :)

  • http://celebrityweightloss24.com David Jonn

    This may be a really stupid question, but are these plugins only for those with WordPress.Org? I’ve been wanting to make the switch to WordPress.com and I haven’t quite figured out how to install plugins.

  • Bill Wohlers

    The plugins may be used on any website. To use it on a website other than WordPress, simply copy the HTML code and place it on your website.

  • nazmul amin
  • Viraj

    i face same problem with my site click2rupee.com , but now everything is ok..
    thanks for sharing

  • ابراهيم السعدي

    @ تكوين السعدي@ فى مختلف مجالات الفنون •● المشغولات الجلدية ٠•● ( أشغال يدوية )

  • Mikkel Breum

    I have just installed addthis on a blog replacing a previous like-button solution. Though the urls of the individual articles have stayed the same, all the counters reset to zero. I can see then when I hover the like buttons the urls indicated in the browser status bar have a /# appended to them. Is that the reason?

    I’m thinking that if the new AddThis is figuring out the like count for mysite/mylink/# and the original likes have been referenced to mysite/mylink then they don’t match. Am I setting things up wrong, or is this a bug/inconsistency?

  • http://www.addthis.com/ AddThis

    You found the issue. Any extra hashes at the end of the URL would be considered a different URL, which would cause your counter to show a different number of likes.

  • Mikkel Breum

    ok but why is it doing this, and how can I fix it?

    Using the AddThis for WordPress plugin.

    Take a look at the site here (just above the comments): http://schoenstricken.de/2013/10/regenbogen-babydecke-crochet-along-faq/

  • http://www.addthis.com/ AddThis

    Actually, the # that shows when you hover is normal; it just means a javascript popup is being called. If it were in the URL, then that might cause problems. Could you email us with more details on the counters and what they were like before? We’d like to help you resolve this issue, but need to look into it more. Please email us at help@addthis.com.

  • http://www.studio-navivo.it/ Anto

    thank you for the post. Great value!