The Formula Behind The Facebook “Like” Number

Facebook’s private messages spawned quite an uproar last week when it was uncovered that messages were not only being crawled, but also used towards the overall “Like data” of a page. One of the important lessons that marketers learned from the situation was that the “Like count” wasn’t really about likes, rather other interactions (and messaging) that occurs on Facebook.  This led us to ask the question — Just what does count towards the Facebook Like data?

According to the official Facebook Developers page, four different variables make up the Like number:

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.

Unpon further review, we’ve uncovered more variables that affect “Like data” and will clarify the exact formula. We’ve reached out to a Facebook spokesperson and have confirmed that the following elements all are counted into the overall Facebook Like data.

Number of Page Likes

Where this occurs:

Directly on a web page with the Facebook Like social plugin

How the Like data is influenced:

A user browsing a web page simply clicks on the “Like’ button and an additional vote is added to the Like data count.

Number of Page Shares

Where this occurs:

On a web page, using the “send button on the Facebook Social Plugin

How the Like data is influenced:

The Facebook like button social plugin can be configured to show both the “like” and “send” buttons. On pages that have both buttons configures, a user that simply “sends” the post (using the like button) will add 1 to the overall Like data.

Number of Facebook Posts

Where this occurs: 

On Facebook

How the Like data is influenced: 

A user creates a new post and includes a link in the post. Each post  is counted in the overall Like data.

Number of Facebook Post Likes

Where this occurs: 

On Facebook, on an existing post


How the Like data is influenced: 

A user viewing their news feed sees post with an interesting link and likes the actual Facebook post.


Number of Post Shares

Where this occurs:

On Facebook, from within the News Feed

How the Like data is influenced:

A user finds a shared link in their News Feed and shares with their audience. Each of these shares is counted in the overall Like data.

Number of Post Comments

Where this occurs:

On Facebook Posts

How the Like data is influenced:

A user sees a shared link in their News Feed and comments on it. The overall like data is positively influenced when the comment is added.

Number of Post Comments with Links

Where this occurs:

On Facebook Posts that do not have a link in the original post

How the Like data is influenced:

A user sees a friend’s post that does not have originally have a link included. The user comments on their friend’s post with a link included in the comment. The Like Data for the link within the comment is then positively influenced.

Number of Messages

Where this occurs:

Within Facebook chat

How the Like data is influenced:

If a user copies a link to a direct message and sends to another user, like data is increased for the URL being sent. This number is only increased on a per-user basis; user’s can’t continually send messages to inflate counts.

Number of URL Comments (if using Facebook comments)

Where this occurs:

On a URL that is using the Facebook comments plugin


How the Like data is influenced:

A user is reading an article on a specific website that has the Facebook comments plugin installed. When the comment is made on the page, the like data increases.


So, yes, the Facebook Like button absolutely pulls in much more data than just those simply clicking a button on the page. With the recent  overall reach decreases the value of Facebook engagement couldn’t be higher. An engaged user (whether they are in favor of a topic or not) is added to the overall “Like data” of a link, so make sure to get folks talking about you if tying to boost those Like numbers.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Facebook | Facebook: Business Issues | Features & Analysis | Social Media Marketing | Top News


About The Author: is the Director of Marketing for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 6+ years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

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  • AJ Kohn

    I’m really happy to see this covered in greater depth since most don’t understand the type of Like inflation that’s going on.

    I did a small test about two years ago to show how this worked:

    And if you’re really interested in the breakdown you can use the Current Page bookmarklet I created as I was testing all this stuff out:

    What’s disconcerting is that people still want to compare Likes to Tweets or +1s on an equal level and that’s just patently not true in the slightest. To me this is really walking the edge of social proof manipulation.

  • Jason Cruz

    The question for a lot of brands and companies still remain though: Are Facebook Likes enough of an engagement metric for them to believe in and therefore act upon, or is there more to it?

  • donthe

    Considering how thorough Facebook is about counting their “Likes”, it’s amazing to me how Facebook has never addressed the problem of transferring the “Like count” when moving a webpage from an old URL to a new URL. Even with a 301 permanent redirect Like Counts will not transfer, same problem with using short URL’s

  • Jailbreakstation

    But I need to know how this data influences the SEO ranking of a page or website. Please can you explain.

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