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Facebook Like Button Count Inaccuracies

by Clint Watson on 7/6/2010 10:32:44 AM

This post in by Clint Watson, our founder and lead developer.

If you're not a geek - here's the bottom line of this post: 

The Facebook "like" buttons you see embedded on websites incorrectly report the number of "people" who "like" something.  Specifically, the button can inflate the displayed count of people.  While this is fine when all you want to do is track some general level of "engagement" with a particular item, it was not accurate for the use I needed - counting each "like" as a vote in our BoldBrush Online painting competition.  What I needed is a way to get the number of actual people who "like" something.  And there is a way to retreive that information from Facebook, but it is often a different number from what is shown on the "like" button itself. 

If you are a geek - here's the bottom line of this post:

If you're using the Facebook "Like" Button Social Plugin and you need an accurate count of the actual number of people who have clicked the "like" button, you can't rely on the number reported by the button itself.  You need to retrieve your URL's "fan count" number via Facebook's Open Graph API[1]


When I started our online painting contest, I had always planned to roll out a feature that allowed users to vote for their favorite paintings - eventually maybe creating some sort of people's choice award category.  When Facebook released the "Like" button social plugin, I thought it would be simpler to just use their code.  Plus, I thought, it would solve some problems.  I had always worried about implementing the feature myself because if awards were tied to the voting, there would be incentive to "game the system" and I just didn't want to deal with a bunch of fake user accounts and identity verification issues that would arise because of the gaming.  So I thought since most people use their real identities on Facebook, using the Facebook like button would largely solve the issue for me.

I recently added that feature to our online painting competition.  It lets Facebook users to "like" their favorite paintings.  After a few weeks, I thought it would be fun to use those "like" counts to rank the paintings in order of popularity, with the "most popular" being the ones with the most "likes."  So I dug into Facebook's api and found a way to retrieve the "like" data and hacked together a working solution.  So far so good.  The users were having a good time, it was interesting to watch the rankings change over time.  I also decided not to tie any awards to these rankings (at least for now) since I didn't know how accurate the "like" data actually was - I'm glad I didn't.

Like Button Inconsistencies

If you properly register your application with Facebook, the like button gives the application owner access to an administrative page for each item on his website that has been "liked."  I quickly started to notice something odd.  One of the early top-ranking paintings displayed 331 "likes" on the button itself.  This number matched what I was pulling from the api and was storing in my own database for ranking purposes.  But when I clicked through to the adminitrative page for that item, it clearly displayed "140 People like this."  There's a pretty big difference between 140 and 331 - way too big a difference if awards get involved.[2]   At this point, I wasn't too worried since it was just for fun upon the initial launch, but with future uses in mind, I decided to dive-in and create a more controlled situation and see if I could figure out what was going on.

Duplicating the Problem

I visited a painting page that had no "likes" so far.  I also picked a time when contest activity was low (it tends to be frantic toward deadlines and slow right after one contest ends and the next one starts).  I also created a fake Facebook account (shhh don't tell Zuck) so that I could use my real account and the fake account to have data from two different Facebook users.

While logged into Facebook with the fake "B Rockhurst" account, I visited the web page and clicked "Like."  The next thing that happed was that the like button opened up a text box to allow me to type a message and "share" the item on my Facebook wall.  So I typed "cool" and hit submit.

Here's what the like button displays at this point:  "B Rockhurst and one other person like this"

So what's going on?  To find out, I called Facebook's handy api.  For this particular call I used the old REST api call in the following format:

Which returned the following XML:

Notice the "like_count" actually returns 1.  But and the "share_count" also returns 1.  That is correct.  "B Rockhurst" "liked" the page once and shared it once.  It seems, however, that the Facebook "Like" Button Social Plugin displays the "total_count" - which is now 2.  In fact, I was already aware of this issue and had been using the "total_count" for my painting rankings so that the numbers would match the reported Facebook like button counts.  I figured, in essence, everybody was allowed two votes - a "like" and a "share."  And had decided not to worry about it until I had more time to study it.

Next I logged into Facebook under my real account.  I visited "B Rockhurst's" profile and I clicked "like" under the shared item on his wall:

Then I called the API again, but alas, no change.  Apparently "liking" an item on another's wall doesn't inflate the count (somewhat ironically since this actually is an instance of another person "liking" the item).

OK, so what if I tried commenting?  So I commented on "B Rockhurst's" item by writing "pretty cool":

Again - checked the API - no change in the counts.

Hmmm. what if I shared the item directly from "Barrett's" wall?

Let's check the API again:


Bingo!  The "share_count" has now increased to 2 and the "total_count" has increased to 3.

 Let's confirm.  I visit the web page again, this time logged into Facebook as myself:

As you can see, the button total still matches the api total.  It reports that "3 people like this" - even though only 2 people have been involved and only 1 person (B Rockhurst) has actually clicked the like button on the web page itself.

Now, logged in as myself, I click "Like" and when the dialog box pops up I share it to my facebook wall:

If my suspicions are correct, the number of "people" that the "like" button will report, should increase to five now (since the like button reports the "total_count" field).  Here's the api call:

So if the like button counts are wrong, how do we get the right number (which at this point should be two people)?

The answer, I think, likes in the fact that each URL "liked" on Facebook actually becomes a "fan page."  As the administrator of the application providing the like button, I get access to that fan page.  So, let's visit the fan page and see what it says:

That's perfect!  That's exactly what I want.  2 people have actually visited the web page and clicked like.  Can we get this information via the api?

One would think, based on looking at the api calls above, you could use the "like_count" shown.  However, I knew from past experience that there is an issue with that number.  I waited a couple of days and checked the api again:

What?  The "like_count" has now increased to four?  And the "total_count" (the number reported on the button itself) has now increased to seven?   Did more people actually visit the page and "like" it?  Let's check the admin page:

I honestly haven't totally figured out why the "like_count" increases that way.  Perhaps some of the earlier actions I took did increase the like count, but maybe you have to give them time to show up in the API.  I do know that the like count does inflate beyond the actual number of people, and so, I can't use it for my intended purpose.

Since, for the purpose of the actual number of people, the button count is wrong, the "like_count" is wrong - can we get the correct number from the api?

The Solution

The answer is yes, but, as far as I can determine, we have to make a different api call to the newer open graph api:[3]

This api call results in the following, this time as a JSON object:

The "fan_count" number is what we want.

UPDATE 12/27/2010 - Facebook has changed the way they return this information from their API.  The URL to the api call remains the same, but they have ended the field "fan_count" and replaced it with a field called "likes" (so that the example above would now read "likes" : 2 ).  Other than this one change the data remains the same.

Bottom Line for Our Use

I don't have an issue with the way the Facebook button normally reports the numbers - it's probably a good number for tracking an approximation of "engagement" with a particular item, although reporting the number as the "number of people" who "liked" an item seems a bit misleading.[4]  However, in a situation where you want an accurate count or where there might be an incentive to game the system, the "fan_count" number is the one you really want to use.

In the end, I'll probably end up building our own voting system as it would provide more control and other useful data, but in the meantime, it's nice to know we can get more accurate numbers from the existing Facebook "like" buttons by changing our api calls.

Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic


1.  The open graph api call is

2.  I don't think anyone has tried to game the system so far.  I think the number inflation has been a result of people naturally encouraging their friends to go "like" their paintings, which is fine.

3.  I would have preferred to use the open graph api for all the calls, however, the old api let me pass multiple URLs in one call and it seems that the open graph api must be called one URL at a time.  It's not going to be impossible, but I'm going to have to make a lot more calls to Facebook's api to retreive the data I need if I have to get one url at a time.  If someone knows of a way to call open graph with multiple URLs, I would love to know the call.  UPDATE 7/21/2010 - Duh, the call is easy it's,URL,URL etc.  We've now implemented the solution outlined in this post.

4.  If Facebook was a smaller company, one might conjecture that they have an incentive to show the larger (but more inaccurate) number on the "Like" button because it is a publicly visible number that is more impressive.  That higher number might encourage other webmasters to implement the like button, thus increasing the uptake of the button itself.  On the other hand, making such a suggestion seems silly given that Facebook has 500 million users and is the most trafficked site on the Internet...savvy webmasters should already understand the value of engaging with the Internet's largest community.


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Topics: Painting Contest | Code 

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Matthew Read
Clint, thought the article was informative but not sure if it anwsers my question. I have one painting entered into the contest, but only one like beside the button. If I look at my FB account, I see 5 for that particular piece. Are those "likes" not linked to your "like" button??
Also I would like to say...I'm new to Fineartstudioonline, but I love your application. It's easy to work with and tech support is outstanding! Starting to get more interest and look forward to a long lasting relationship. Artists should really look into what you have to offer! - Matthew

Clint Watson
Matthew - glad your enjoying it! In my testing, when someone clicks "like" from the contest page - that counts in the total, but THEN if someone clicks LIKE next to the link on the facebook newsfeed, I don't think it counts - that's probably the difference.

Right now it's just for fun, but when we go further with it, we're going to only count likes clicked from the contest page itself, plus we will add our own voting system and probably add the two in some way. Not sure exactly, but if we ever tie it to awards, we'll be sure it's about as game-proof as possible.

Thanks for your kind feedback.

Linda Young
I have clients who are not on Facebook and would like to have voted but said when they attempted to vote "like", the link to Facebook made them exit the page. When you come up with your own voting system, it would be great if ALL people could vote not just Facebook. After all, aren't we trying to get people to visit our websites? Having Facebook pop up was a turn-off to many of my voters.

Clint Watson
Linda - implementing our own voting system is planned, but Facebook provided a shortcut that we decided to take. I agree, it will be nice not to require facebook, but, since it's not for any actual monetary awards at this time, we went ahead and implemented the facebook solution for fun. Part 2 - yes, the goal is to get people to visit our sites, that's why our implementation requires the like button to be clicked from the actual painting page rather than inside the facebook wall stream. We want to be sure the "liker" actually views the painting.

Clint Watson
Linda - another thought regarding what you said "having the facebook pop up was a turn-off" - if we implement our own voting system, there will still be a popup to create a canvoo login - would that also be a turn off? Or since, the site is canvoo would that be something more acceptable to people? I don't think there is a feasible way to have voting that doesn't require being tied to an account.

Linda Young
I think it will be more acceptable that way; I just heard so much feedback from my contacts about the necessity to create a facebook page people just refused to do it. I really think it was an "I don't trust" issue about Facebook to them. I think if the canvoo login doesn't actually require someone to create a page they would be more likely to do it in order for a vote to count.

Do I understand that if a person visits the actual painting page and votes more than once, it will not register? I did try this out myself and saw the count go down (as if "unlike") then I "liked" it again and saw the count return.

Clint Watson
Linda - you understand correctly the only "likes" that our system counts are clicked directly from the page on our site. If someone clicks like again to "unlike" the piece, the count WILL go down, if they click like again, it will go back up. In short, we only count the number of current "fans" of a piece and if someone clicks like a second time they are no longer a fan. We actually have admin access to a page on facebook that shows all the fans and we check it to make sure the counts shown by our system match what facebook shows. We do eventually want our own voting system but we don't really want to deal with people opening multiple fake accounts to create false upvotes - we left that problem to facebook as they are good about policing fake accounts. I'm not sure exactly how we're going to handle that yet.

Why can't you find a way to disable the like button when you have already 'liked' it? Because for people watching the votes, it can be very discouraging to see your votes go up and DOWN!!

Clint Watson
Rebecca - the like button code is controlled by Facebook - there is no option to disable it after clicking. I don't really understand why the heck someone would actually take the time to click like and then go back and unclick it, however, I do guess it's someone's right to change their mind, or maybe some people click buttons by mistake, in which case I guess it makes sense not to take away their ability to correct the mistake. In any case, we can't change that on this side.

There was a one-time change this month when ALL the vote counts went down due to our correcting the way the likes counted, perhaps that's what you're referring to - if so, that was a one-time thing.

Greg Lyles
How do I unlike your site? I want it off my facebook other pages!

Clint Watson
Greg - whatever you've previously clicked "like" on, you can click the "like" button again to "unlike" something.


Thanks for the post, very interesting and helpful for a project I'm currently working on. This also includes a voting system with Facebook-Likes.

The problem with this is of course the difference between the number displayed next to the like-button and the real number the opengraph-API returns.
I hope I don't get strange effects where one like button displays more likes than another, but actually has less likes when you ask the opengraph-API.

Clint Watson
Simon - I was initially using the old api but was able to get the number that matches the button. The button uses the total of both LIKES and SHARES - you have to add them together - if you're just counting the likes your number will be lower than the button.

My issue was that even the like count is too high because it counts multiple likes from the same person. I want a "one man, one vote" system - which I figured out how to do at the end of the post. I've since started calling those "unique likes"

At first I thought the Opengraph API does not return the share count, but now I've found my error.
The like button likes the url, but the sharebutton shares the url with a trailing slash, which does not return the same result and.. well.. sucks.

Confusingly, if I call the old REST API I get the same share_count for both URLs. Weird behaviour, but I'll just change my share button so it includes the trailing slash and I should be fine.

Sara Mathewson
are we only allowed to vote for one painting a month? Or can we "like" as many paintings as we like?


It's true that if someone shares the item on their wall after liking it and you click "like" on that sharing instance your like is counted as 1 like. But it is not added to the number of fans. I have been experimenting and have confirmed this. It just takes 60 seconds or so for it to be counted (a little delay)

Christine (Spencer Gentosi) Hooker
Hi Clint! Practically speaking...There is much more of a possibility of 'likers' of one's work to fine the artist on facebook just because of the networking and 'friend'ships than finding the contest or one's website onto which one be present to vote (an officially counted like) for a painting. If your explanation covered this, it was Greek to me, but why not count the Facebook likes AND the Canvoo votes, find out some way to account for any duplication of votes from two sites and just count the adjusted total of 'likes?" That doesn't seem complicated, just the need for the filtering of duplicate votes. Let me know what you think...Thanks for all that YOU do! Your Friend and Client, Christine Hooker

Clint Watson
Christine - we don't have "canvoo votes" - we only count facebook likes. But the "liker" has to visit the page here and click "like" - that ensures that the person has seen the painting and that no duplicates are counted. Artists are certainly free to leverage their networks to send people to their contest page to click like.

Clint Watson
Christine - regarding "greek to me" - this post was actually intended for other geeks - it was my way of explaining to other programmers the problems with the like button and how to compensate for those problems, so I'm not surprised some of it was "greek!"

Nice article, Clint!
I was wondering why my website shows 600 likes but only 29 people like it on the fan page!

When I visit the graph api URL for my site, the only data I get returned is 'id' and 'shares' but no fan count or other information. Do you need to pass an auth token in order to get this other information?

Thanks a lot!

Clint Watson
Brian - you shouldn't have to pass an auth token, but each URL is different in facebook's eyes, so you have to query the graph api for each specific url you want a fan count for. I'm also not sure - but you MIGHT need facebook's open graph protocol embedded in the page itself. - I don't recall if that's required to get a fan count or not cause we've got it on all the pages we're tracking.

View the source of the following page to see the open graph meta tags:

Hmm.. I have the og meta tags set up on the site. (I'm just interested in tracking the homepage). It appears that maybe og:type website does not automatically generate a facebook fan page, and thus has no fan count. For example, if I go to the graph api page for

The only information that shows in the JSON is 'id' and 'shares'.

However, I would have expected to be able to get at least a 'like count', that would match the number of likes that display on the Facebook admin page for my site.

Clint Watson
I think you have to add the fb:app_id to make it generate a fan page and have the fan count (otherwise it wouldn't know whose account to tie the fan page to).

Linda Bolster
I wanted to vote for a friends painting but by mistake clicked the like button on facebook. Now I can't do the unique like button because I did the facebook like button. I did try to press the like button to unlike but it didn't make a difference. Do you know what I can do ?

Clint, great post and thanks for the help.

I am trying to do the same thing with the facebook "share" button. Can this also use the fan_count?
I'm not sure if share buttons can create an app with unique appID (fb:app_id) and thus may not be able to collect fans like "like" button pages do.
Can you confirm if this is true or not?

Also, it is important that only 1 person can share per page. So it has to have a way of determining who has shared that page's content by clicking that page's shared button. Again, the only way i see this possible is if an appID can be created for each specific share button on each specific page.

Lastly, you definitely need to check this out, it may effect this method's ability to get an accurate count (thus rendering this blog post ineffective!):
At the bottom of that page you'll see the following under Migration:
Graph API: The fan_count attribute on the Page object will be renamed to likes.

Clint Watson
Brian, I'm sorry - I really don't know on the share button. I don't *think* it will work the same was as the like button but I'm not positive about that. Thanks for the heads up on the roadmap change to the api call. Looks like that change will become mandatory about a year from now.

Great article, Clint. Solved a huge problem we had been having with providing some of our clients with online competitions that awarded people based on the number of likes they got. People cheated so bad, it turned our lives into a nightmare.

Got one question. How do you access that "admin page" you've mentioned in your article. The one where you get to see who "liked" a certain page.

charlotte evans
the likes are not working at all on the contest--haven't changed on anyones entry since Thurs, nite or Friday.

Clint Watson
Mert - glad it helped. The admin link is available next to the like button if you are logged in to facebook under the profile that the app is registered under.

Brian - oops you were right. The api call changed last week. Just deployed the change.

Charlotte - sorry about that Facebook changed some stuff on their side. I've changed our side so things should be working again.

charlotte evans
Thanks Clint-- That was fast!

charlotte evans
Clint something went bongos again---i lost all my points on my painting Natures jewels---i had 86 and it went to 1. yikes what is going on---looked like a bunch lost their votes. thanks for your help...

Thanx, Clint. However, I'm not able to see the admin button you've mentioned even though I've tried hovering over the like button after I've logged into my Facebook account with which I've created the app I've hooked up to my site.

charlotte evans
hope this problem can be resolved quickly--as lots of people lost all their votes and the likers are voting again---it looks like a mess---very few were not affected--lots of gnashing of teeth!

I stated this previously and it may be the issue you are all experiencing. Hope it helps:

Lastly, you definitely need to check this out, it may effect this method's ability to get an accurate count (thus rendering this blog post ineffective!):
At the bottom of that page you'll see the following under Migration:
Graph API: The fan_count attribute on the Page object will be renamed to likes.

charlotte evans
Brent i don't think we are talking about the same thing---a large group of us lost all our votes (some had almost 200--some had 30) we lost the votes and went to the bottom with one vote--some of us were in 1st and 3rd place ect..... I do not think that many votes were inaccurate)

Interesting. That's the problem with being at facebook's whim.
Do the votes still show up in your fbook insights for the corresponding like button app_ID's?

I recently read about a new language that was developed called SML by a 3rd party company where any changes that are made to the facebook API will be corrected to work with the SML language by the 3rd party company... so developers who use it don't have to worry about facebook updates messing up their applications.
May be worth looking into a possible solution for this like vote functionality with their SML language. I only read 1 article about it so please don't hold me to it if it doesn't relate well to this functionality :)

charlotte evans
I hope Clint can look into this problem.

charlotte evans
Still not fixed --people are re-voting again on the Painting Natures Jewels that lost 86 votes---the painting Tuesdays child that did not lose all the votes is not working either--it is not being updated --has not changed total of votes for 2 or 3 days and I know people voted. There are many people who are having issues. Thanks for any help--i hope someone can.

For all who might have had the same misfortune of not being able to see the admin button on their like button, you need to be using the 'standard' layout. Thanks again for all the great info, Clint.

Clint Watson
Charlotte - I am sorry, it appears to be working from what I am seeing. Howver, I am currently due to my schedule not able to give it more attention. I will be able to look at it more closely before the end of the month, but probably not within the next week. I should be able to make the votes match whatever facebook is reporting by the end of the month. Unfortunately Facebook keeps changing stuff on their side, all the stuff on our side is still working properly. This is why we have never made the votes actually count for any real awards or anything - we didn't want to put real awards in the hands of a voting system we couldn't be sure was rock solid. Thanks for letting me know there is an issue.

charlotte evans
Thanks for your reply Clint--i am getting people to re-vote on my painting 15197 (natures jewels) --it is not back to the 89 points that were lost, however
on my painting 15025 (Tuesdays child) this one did not lose any points strangely---it keep the 111 it had--however it has not updated since the crash of our votes.
I know these pop votes dont count for anything---we enter in hopes the judges pick us--and-when they don't we look to the popular contest for fun and its neat that people like our stuff enough to vote---this whole problem with the votes being taken away kinda takes that fun out of it. Thanks for looking into it when you have time--i would love to know how many votes i really did get and I am sure others would like that too.

maryanne Jacobsen
I agree with Charlotte. One of the 3 paintings that I had entered in this month's contest lost all of its votes in the last couple days. I reported the problem and admin referred me here. Being a non-geek I didn't understand any of it, though it seems to be talking about inflated vote counts- not losing all your votes. Today I checked and the second painting that I had entered lost all of its votes overnight! So now my paintings are back to zero and one respectively. I also noticed that once you switch to Facebook's new layout, there doesn't seem to be a way to go back to standard. IMHO, I think until you can develop your own 'like' system for a people's choice award, it's probably fairer to eliminate popular entries, since the numbers are not reliable.

charlotte evans

maryanne jacobsen
Yeah Charlotte. Tuesday's Child and Renaissance Child both bit the dust. Maybe FAcebook hates cute kids!

I am seriously considering dropping out of Facebook. There are huge privacy and security issues that are being compromised constantly and we are at their mercy. I love social networking , but this isn't worth it.

charlotte evans
Maryanne--it struck me funny(?) that people voted on my Natures Jewels and got it back to what i lost and then Tuesday Child fell. Is there a lesson in this?

Clint Watson
Maryanne - amen. I think in 2011 we'll have to build out our own voting system. I'm tired of having to scramble to change all our code because "master Facebook" decides to change things on their side.

charlotte evans
I guess my comments are unseen--oh well the way things are going -Merry Christmazs anyway......

Clint Watson
Charlotte - your comments are not unseen - I was travelling with limited internet access. I am now investigating and here's the issue - the numbers that we are reporting ARE matching exactly what Facebook is reporting to us. If indeed votes/likes have been lost, it has something to do with what Facebook themselves changed and doesn't appear to be anything we can change on this side.

I guess we're going to have to build our own voting system in 2011 and/or kill voting as Facebook is becoming increasingly frustrating.

To be quite honest, I'm considering removing all Facebook features from our system and closing my Facebook account. Not because of the "like" issue, but continued concerns about privacy and spam that come through Facebook.

Clint Watson
Charlotte - by the way, if you want to verify what Facebook is reporting, here is the address to see what they are reporting for your painting in the current contest:

That address is facebook's server, not ours. Notice that the "likes" line reads "77" which is what our side shows too. I wanted you to be able to see where we get our number.

Hi Clint,
i stumbled across this blog post while searching for how to get the like count of the like boxes. For my next project, i will completely outsource liking and commenting with the facebook social plugins. however, i came across some problems, when i wanted to rank my objects by the like count. querying for the like count of every object in the database doesnt seem to be a good idea. however, as I cant seem to be able to get notified when someone likes one of my objects, i cant keep a count in my own database. do you have an idea?

Clint Watson
Nam - I understand your concern. I have never found a way to be notified when someone likes one of your objects (although facebook did promise webhook callbacks but I don't know if they were implemented). We keep track of which pages are visited and every 15 minutes our system retrieves the likes only on pages that were visited. We do keep the number in our own database, that's the only way you'll be able to do the custom ranking.

Clint Watson

As a follow-up, Facebook's realtime API might work for you, I haven't tried it yet, as it was not up and running when we wrote our code, but they claim you can subscribe to get callbacks to your server on certain events:

"Here are the list of user connections to which you can subscribe: feed, friends, activities, interests, music, books, movies, television, *likes*, checkins"

It sounds like you just need to use the new graph json call and ref. The like field?

Why happens if, when using this new graph approach, you like a painting and share it. The like that painting from the wall using your other profile? I don't think you outlined that scenario.

Hi Clint,
say, wouldn't be the FB:Event.subscribe() method work for us. As far as i can read in the Document, our callback method gets called when someone hits the like button

Clint Watson
Neil - when you use the new graph approach and like the painting from the wall of the other profile, I don't believe it will show up in the graph call. The graph call basically gives you a list of people who have liked an item not the total number of likes.

Nam - I think that FB:Event.subscribe() is what you want, and probably what we would have used (instead of polling) if it had been available back in July. I have not used it though, so don't know about an "gotchas." It should be pretty straightforward just like any other callback.

just so that you know, .subscribe() is really nice and it works really well, although it only returns the url that was liked. It also get called twice if you have two like buttons with the same URL on the same page

Dante Hamilton
Hi Clint, great article! Did you figure out the voting system yet? I am very interested in what you come up with as I am in need of a voting system for several awards events I am launching and have in the works. Would be nice if this "system" was also available as a WordPress plugin. Let me know your progress. In the meantime I think I will use the Facebook like system to get started...


Hi Clint, I put the like button on 2 different pages but both pages show the same number of Likes. Have you seen that before? I set the href attribute in the fb:like code to correspond with the 2 different pages' url.

Clint Watson
Johnny, I have never seen that if they are truly both using different urls. That's a new one.

Charlotte Evans
I have not entered the contest for several months due to the fiasco a couple of months ago with everyone losing their votes---I entered this month (March) #18386 thinking it was safe--but nooooo- my unique votes are not being recorded at all--I have kept a list of all my fb friends who have voted and it is long.....My painting does not even show anywhere on the most popular --as it has no unique votes. Since it was not picked by the judges, I don't even get the fun of seeing how many people like it! Pitty party! lol

Clint Watson
Charlotte - Wow bad timing - it was working from late December until march 21st - they day you entered. I spent nearly all day that day (the 21st) trying to make it work. Facebook continually changes things. I am at my wits end. Paying FASO customer features suffer when I have to spend 8 hours dealing with Facebook issues.

I have spent the last hour getting to work AGAIN, however, I have not one single illusion that facebook won't arbitraritly change things again, because of that here is my current thinking.

1."have not entered due to the fiasco" - I honestly think you are placing too much importance on the liking if it kept you from entering.

2. "since it was not picked by the judges" - there's a different judge every single month - so not entering because the dec judge didn't pick doesn't make sense - there have been three different judges since then.

3. I wish people would quit giving Facebook so much time and free information. Facebook is aol all over again and we'll all look back and wonder what the big deal was someday. They are using all the free time and information everyone for some reason willingly gives them to make themselves rich. sorry - this is tangential, but it is my little rant.

4. I have honestly, had it. My current thinking is this and your feedback is welcome - we are simply going to build our own "liking" system for this contest. Then it will always work the way we program it. Users will click "like" then they will have to register with an email address, which will likely be verified. After they click like and we record the vote in our own system, they will have the option to share it to facebook - but that will not count in any way. Less people will probably do it because having to register will create a bit of an additional step (the first time), but if they *really* want to support the artist I think most people would do it. Plus we could then give those people the ability to get email updates about artists they "like."

What do you think about that? Would that work?

Clint Watson
Charlotte - follow up -

1. When I said I've "had it" - I meant with FAcebook, not with you :-)

2. Another option - we could leave the "liking" system but quit counting it for votes and add an official "vote" button which would be our own system. Maybe that would sort of be the best of both worlds?

charlotte evans
Sorry you spent so much time---I know there are different judges each month--i have entered several times--i was not griping because i was not picked--i was just going to keep trying--I quit entering because of the frustration on the votes--sorry but it is great to see that the people like my work anyway--hope that makes sense--I agree with the judges decisions--I just have to try harder. However you guys decide to fix this problem is great with me just so it works right for everyone. I feel your frustration. i feel your pain! lol

Interestingly, so far I have had four of my friends (okay, including myself since I was testing this!) come to the actual entry page and click "like" next to the image. On the BoldBrush site, NOT my FB page. But it only shows there are 2 "unique" likes.

Seems like this issue hasn't been commented on for a few months but I just wanted to give this feedback.

Okay, it seems to take a little bit of time for the counts to catch up. Scratch my last comment. :)


i'd like to get the share/like/comment count of a video hosted on facebook. Lets say this one

Is there any way to get that number?

This one does not work.

Gary Phile
Clint, there are a lot of posts here so please forgive me if my comment has been talked about all ready. I read most of them, but not all.
I think the idea of website visitors voting should only ever be for fun. Never for an actual prize or award.
There are too many people out there that have a 'friend' count on facebook in the 1000's, the person who only has 45 'friends' is immediately at a disadvantage. I have a number of 'friends', but I am very picky about who is my 'friend' on facebook. I could have more, but I don't want more.
Also, these 'friends' may not actually find the painting pleasing. They may only 'like' the painting to help their 'friend' win something.
I have seen it happen before. A friend of mine tried to win and iPod at a site. She was winning with her 18 votes until a person came along with 973'friends' and blew her out of the water. My friend only had 56 friends.
And, what about the people who don't belong to any social networking sites. The could never get a reasonable vote count.
I hope this all makes sense. I think the purpose of actually voting would be to pick the BEST painting, not the artist who has the most friends. I don't think you'll ever get that honest result if website visitors are doing the voting.
Stick to the judging route you have now, please. I think it's the fairest way.
I love the site and the fact that you are doing all of this. Keep up the good work!

Susan Vaughn
Hi Clint! Love your contest! My painting, Charlotte Summer at is having problems and I am now getting an Error message when the "Like" button is clicked saying that the URL has been blocked. I had 2 friends over who do not have FB accounts and they wanted to vote for my painting. With a lot of nudging, I got them to sign up (we're 50 somethings so that can be difficult). After they created their accounts, they went to the page for my painting and clicked the Like button. It registered the first friend's Like but not the other - that is when the Error message popped up about the URL being blocked. Then I refreshed the page and the count went down to the original 33 "Likes." I am very concerned about the "Likes" not being counted and the URL being blocked. Can you help, please? Thank you! - Susan

Clint watson
Unfortunately, Facebook sometimes glitches and we can't do anything on our side to change it. It's pretty rare and usually clears itself (I was able to like your painting without issue). The URL block is something that is occasionally a problem on their side that we can't correct on our side. Our long-term plan is to use our own voting system.

Susan Vaughn
Wow Clint! Thank you so much for your prompt response! Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle I see your vote went through. Maybe FB just doesn't like new accounts. I can understand that though because then people could fake their votes. I wish there was a way to create a voting system, though, that was completely legitimate. I say this because I can understand that the more popular artists with more friends on FB would receive more votes, and that would not be fair. Even the juried competitions are biased by the tastes of the judges, but that still may be the best way to go - professional jurors like Kevin MacPherson, and a mix of judges with different styles and mediums too. Maybe the artists should submit their work with the fee and then at the end of the month, the judges converge on the entries and they each choose their top 10 or 20. Then the paintings that receive the most votes from the judges end up as the "First place" "2nd place" and "3rd place" winners. Your thoughts? - Susan

C Bonawitz
When voting or "liking" a painting how do I know if the vote was counted as a real vote?

Clint Watson
The real vote count is the "unique likes" count we display. We update that every 15 minutes.

Anne Kullaf
Personally, I think this feature actually detracts from the credibility of the competition. It makes it appear (even though it is not the case) that winners are chosen based on "likes". I won't enter any competition that uses that system because I refuse to pester anyone to "like" my artwork, and we all know that is the only way to win a competition based on a popular vote system. Again, I know this competition is not run that way and you are just trying to get publicity for your site. Nothing wrong with that, just thought you might like to know that it does deter some of us from participation.

Clint Watson
Anne, you said, "I know this competition is not run that way and you are just trying to get publicity for your site. Nothing wrong with that..."

I'm confused on why you wouldn't participate then, since you self-admitted that you understand that the Likes have nothing to do with the way winners are chosen, which means you wouldn't have to "pester" anyone.

Anne Kullaf
Clint, thanks for your reply. I actually entered this month for the first time because I now understand that it is not a "likes" based competition. However, I haven't "liked" my own entry (even though your site says I have, that's a bit troublesome and should be addressed, particularly since it is pulling my profile picture from FB, not sure how it gained access to that) nor have I asked anyone else to like it. My point was that all the attention on getting likes can lead other artists who feel as I do to become unsure of how the competition is run. Having seen all the FB artists posts about it I automatically thought it was a likes-based competition, which kept me away from even bothering to read your rules page. I asked one of the previous participants that I actually know if it was likes-based (because he doesn't do that stuff either) and he told me it was not, even though FB promotion is encouraged it isn't required. All I'm saying is that some artists might be put off by it or confused is all, maybe some clarification or notation that FB participation is not required and less emphasis on the likes aspect would draw in a broader level of participation. Just giving you professional input from another perspective. Cheers, Anne

Clint Watson
Anne - thanks for the reply. To clarify - the like button code all comes directly from Facebook. It's like a little tiny Facebook website embedded in our site. If that section is showing you "liked" it and showing your profile pic - it is coming from facebook and is an issue with their code or terminology and, unfortunately, there's nothing we can do to change it. FWIW I checked your entry - I can't see your profile pic so it only shows to people who are your friends on FB.

I will consider how we can clarify that the FB stuff is just for fun not for any part of the actual judging. Thx.

nice article. thanks for sharing

Jenny Briggs
Hi, Clint, thanks for posting the info regarding the "likes"; finally I know which number is correct. Right now my entry shows 17 unique likes then me, a friend, and 53 others liking it. Very big difference there! I actually did click "like" for my own painting - I do like it! I click "like" on others too sometimes, though! It's fun!

mahesh burra
hi ,

i have created in my application which is
running in my local system. i have tried to query
like count value using that particular url.

like http://localhost:1234/LikeApp/index.jsp

but i didn't get that count value..

where should i host my application to get the like count using facebook query language or api.

please help me out..
thank in advance.

mahesh burra
hi ,

i have created like button in my application which is
running in my local system. i have tried to query
like count value using that particular url.

like http://localhost:1234/LikeApp/index.jsp

but i didn't get that count value..

where should i host my application to get the like count using facebook query language or api.

please help me out..
thank in advance.

Rick Rotante
If you entertain using the Facebook accounts to judge future artwork, I believe you will severely damage your credibility as a contest, while destroying the jury system altogether for your contest. It will become a popularity contest only and have little to do with the quality and expertise of the art and artists.
The general public, though some may buy art, has little knowledge or ability in determining quality art. Most, I will bet, only pick what they like and are not qualified to say what work has true artistic value. Instead of lowering the bar to the level of an unknowing public, you should be thinking of raising the understanding of the public as to what constitutes good art.
General consensus is art should be judged by those who study it, practice it, or do it and have some understanding as to how a work of art is created, not Joe Q. Public who picks artwork based on the color of his/her beer!
Let me know when you start using Facebook to judge results. I don't think I will continue sending in entries. Very bad idea!

Anne Kullaf
Rick, I could not agree with you more!!!

Clint Watson
Rick - we have no plans to have Facebook voting in any way be used for the real judging. We only added it as something "fun" Facebook users could do but the votes are NEVER used in the actual jurying.

This article wasn't meant to imply we ever would, it's just a technical description of the problems we had to overcome with Facebook's api.

I'm sorry if it somehow implied we would use those results for actual awards. But let me repeat - we do NOT and will not use Facebook results in the actual judging. We will continue to seek out professionally qualified judges for that.

Thanks for your feedback.

Carole Rodrigue
I entered a piece yesterday, shared the link and got over 50 individual likes, and 24 hrs later lost them all and am starting from scratch. Even though it's just for fun, being in the favorite 15 percent is good for recognition and getting dropped down to the bottom again even though I had unique likes is just terrible. I should have 60 unique likes right now. Friends who shared the link have had the link removed from their page without their doing it. Not fun. :-(

Clint Watson

We just posted a notice about this. Facebook was reporting the wrong numbers and fixed the bug on their side within the past 24 hours. Consequently, the unique like numbers are all lower, but are now correct. It affected everyone though, not just you.

I'm not sure why Facebook would remove the link, but it is the type of thing they do.

By the way, the Facebook likes having nothing to do with the FAV15. The FAV15 is selected by my staff and I and is completely independent from any voting.

Carole Rodrigue
Thank you Clint. I can appreciate how this can be a huge pain in your side too. The numbers that are now being reflected however still do not show the numbers before their bug. The only numbers that now appear are those that clicked "like" after the bug, so it's still far from accurate, despite what they say. Facebook has never been customer friendly. Thanks for your quick reply. :-)

Clint Watson

The numbers now do appear correct for us. They are ONLY people who clicked "Like" from the actual page on the contest site. They DO NOT count people who shared or clicked on it on Facebook itself. They also do not count people who liked it on Facebook more than once.

I've seen people who really like something continue to like it over and over in their timeline and each time that number will count as a "share". The number facebook WAS reporting was the number of "shares" which counts can count each person more than once. The number we're now reporting are only the people who visited the page (hence saw the painting presented at full size) and who clicked like, and it only counts each person once.

This is the way we always intended for it to work (and how it worked in previous months), but something went screwy with Facebook's api this months.

I don't think it's only counting people who clicked after the bug, because I had clicked like before the bug on several pieces and it still shows me on those pieces, even after the number was changed on those pieces from the larger "share" number, to the proper "like" number. However, I guess it's always possible.

What we should do is build our own voting system, however, then we'll have to spend a bunch of resources fighting spammers and people who create fake accounts to try to inflate their numbers....which is why we relied on Facebook to begin with....(sigh).....

Filipe Deschamps
Hi Clint, how are you?

Very nice article!

I'm running a voting system just like yours in my website and suddently, yesterday, all Like numbers changed (dropped), just like everyone are reporting. Some entries were returning 1.5k Likes and now only 1.0k :(

Do you know if there's any oficial announcement from Facebook about this?

"The number facebook WAS reporting was the number of "shares" which counts can count each person more than once. The number we're now reporting are only the people who visited the page (hence saw the painting presented at full size) and who clicked like, and it only counts each person once."

Is this correct for the Like button? Or is this the way you managed to code your system using the API?

Best regards!

Filipe Deschamps

Clint Watson

Facebook has announced that they are drastically changing the behavior of the Like button, at least in some use cases and the migrations have to be done in the next 90 days. I think in rolling out that change, they borked the existing Like numbers, although they will never admit to that.

Here's the announcement:

Regarding the past numbers, we were getting a "shares" field from the graph api and our code was processing it as Likes, but after the change we're now back to getting only "Likes" and it all appears correct when I check against the admin pages for those objects (admin pages are going away by they way).

We've changed our code to be sure we never pick up the share number.

To be honest I'm very, very seriously considering going ahead and building out our own voting system as I'm tired of Facebook dictating what my development schedule looks like.

Clint Watson

That previous URL borked, try this:

I just find it highly suspect that all the numbers broke the day before they announced this big change to the Like platform

Filipe Deschamps
Great! :)

Do you think votes made yesterday might be lost forever?

Hi Clint!

What a great post. I really enjoyed seeing your thought process through this! We're struggling with wild inconsistencies between likes on slideshows and have been trying to sleuth out some answers. I see this post is about 2 years old and that you posted an update in July about the new platform update.

Have you seen inconsistencies between sets of content? For example, one slide may have one like, where as the next slide may have 1.1k likes?

- Danielle aka Normal

Rick Rotante
I really don't know why I got this email but...
Dear Normal- I don't enter this contest anymore. Seems Facebook has taken domination over real judgement.
The last thing I want is for the an unknowing public to judge the quality of my work. I am not mainstream anyway and many vote for reasons not related to an standard of art I am familiar with.
Add to which I don't subscribe to any social media. though they are very popular, it is a waste of my time and I believe should be a waste of time for FASO. Get artists to judge art and stop pandering to the lowest common denominator. All real art deserves more.

Clint Watson
Rick, I guess we have done a bad job at our messaging because you must not understand how we use the Facebook likes.

WE DO NOT use them for any judging at all.

You said, "Get artists to judge art and stop pandering to the lowest common denominator. All real art deserves more."

WE *Do*

Go to and scroll down, you'll see list of all the judges we've had. We will continue to hire great artist judges, that IS what art deserves.

The Facebook likes are just for fun, but it gets a LOT of people to the site who stay and look at the art, it gets a lot of exposure for the artists who enter the contest and that is a very good thing.

I promise you, the Facebook likes will never be used for the actual judging.

It is, of course, your prerogative not to enter, but I wanted to be sure that you had the clear picture.


nice catch.


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