How accurate is the Facebook Like count?

Facebook Like buttonBlogger Kevin Sablan from the Almighty Link, which studies ‘how people, journalists, and companies connect through links and social tools’, reckons it could be as low as 39%.

This rather knocks the wind out of the sails of the story I posted the other day about Lionel Messi getting an amazing seven million Likes on his Facebook page. Maybe that should have been 2,730,000. Good, but not quite as impressive.

Sablan took twelve Facebook-related stories and used the RealShare tool to measure how many of the Likes or Recommends were genuinely from people clicking the Like button and how many were shares or comments. The most popular story on the list, CNN’s Facebook event: Let’s dump trash at Boehner’s pad posted a total of 2071 Recommends, when in reality it had 650, plus 769 shares and 653 comments.

Over the twelve stories the combined number of Likes was 4622 whereas the actual figure was 1790, or 39%.

On first sight it seems like a pretty hefty claim to be making, as it means that sites are misleading people as a matter of course about the popularity of their stories and they don’t even realise they’re doing it. Maybe the problem is the word ‘Like’, which you take to mean, well, that lots of individual people like the link enough to want to share it. And of course if someone Likes a story and leaves a comment this will be counted twice, thus distorting the figures.

But buried in the Facebook developers section it explains, ‘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.’

So the information is out there, if you know where to look. I might even click Like to help spread the word.