Webmasters in Uproar Over Missing Twitter Share Counts

Twitter has removed share counts across the board. That’s the number that tells readers of your websites how many times a link has been shared to the social site.

The Twitter share counts have been gone since Nov. 20 but reactions — mostly negative — are still filtering in. And those who are upset are using Twitter, of course, to express their frustrations. You can find many of those reactions under the hashtag: #SaveOurShareCounts

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The decision means that plugins you may use on your website to display social share buttons will no longer reflect the amount of times a particular link has been shared on the social site. It also means that plugin developers who have built the Twitter share count into their product will have to scramble for a solution.

To get this kind of data, Twitter users will now have to go directly to the site — and specific Tweets — to check engagement results.

This move should come as no surprise though. Twitter announced it would be removing share counts and redesigning Follow and Tweet buttons in September.

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Twitter, clearly knew this was going to cause a kerfuffle. It titled a Twitter blog post with the following: “Hard decisions for a sustainable platform.”

Michael Ducker, Twitter’s Group Project Manager, explains the reasoning behind the controversial removal of Twitter share counts on the Twitter blog, saying, “The count was built in a time where the only button on the Web was from Twitter. Today, it’s most commonly placed among a number of other share buttons, few of which have counts.”

Ducker even suggests that the number appearing in these plugins may not be entirely accurate.

He writes, “The Tweet button counts the number of Tweets that have been Tweeted with the exact URL specified in the button. This count does not reflect the impact on Twitter of conversation about your content — it doesn’t count replies, quote Tweets, variants of your URLs, nor does it reflect the fact that some people Tweeting these URLs might have many more followers than others.”

These Twitter share counts are something webmasters use to convince clients that Twitter is a valuable resource.

David Leonhardt, The Happy Guy Marketing president, said in an exclusive interview with Small Business Trends, “For my own blog, the social share count (of which Twitter is usually the highest) is a key metric I use to identify what content gets the kind of traction worthy of evergreen (ongoing) promotion.”

He added, “On client projects, the tweet count is a critical metric to show that the content I write and promote resonates with readers. Many clients trust social proof more than their own evaluation, and they like to see how well their content is doing.”

Gail Gardner, a small business marketing strategist and Founder of GrowMap Services, notes, “Personally, I believe Twitter’s decision to remove Twitter share counts is damaging to them in the long run. It is the high share counts that allow us to convince clients that Twitter is worth using and eventually advertising on. Without them, encouraging advertisers to ever test their ads is much more challenging.”

Developers of social media plugins have been left scrambling, looking to plugin developers to work their magic and ultimately solve the mess.

Gardner points out, “Developers of premium social sharing plugins are likely to provide options to recover these totals. Some, such as the Social Warfare plugin I use, already retain existing tweet numbers. I know the developers of the Warfare plugins are working on a way to count new shares going forward.”

But Twitter’s decision to remove Twitter share counts may likely raise costs for small businesses, either through a paid Twitter service or for upgrading plugins they use to display share buttons. Gardner says the increased costs are worth it. “As a serious blogger, content developer and small business consultant, I recommend paying to retain the ability to display Twitter counts,” she adds.

Some on Twitter are echoing Gardner’s feelings on paying more to display the missing count. Users are also suggesting that Twitter may be working on a plan like that of its own.

Warfare Plugins, which develops its own Twitter plugins and was adversely affected by this recent decision, goes further by pointing out Twitter’s slumping share price. That could be a motivation for dropping share counts.

Don Sturgill writes, “Off the cuff, that may not sound like an earthshaking development – but the potential ramifications are huge. It could even signal the beginning of the end for social media metrics as we know them or it may signal a giant step towards a paywall-anchored Internet.”

Twitter Share Background Illustration via Shutterstock

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Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

9 Reactions
  1. I think social media outlets will continue to drive more traffic to them rather than through your site. They make money from having direct traffic not through your website. I appreciate the article to keep me posted.

  2. You will be able to see the stats for specific tweets when you go the unique link and click the “more” (with three dots) button, in the future?

  3. We have to wonder if Twitter’s rep visits many blogs when he is quoted as saying, “The count was built in a time where the only button on the Web was from Twitter. Today, it’s most commonly placed among a number of other share buttons, few of which have counts.”

    ALL of my social sharing buttons have had counts for years and the Social Warfare plugin I use now offers them which is one of the main reasons bloggers choose to pay for it rather than use a free plugin. Yes, they are not 100% accurate as he points out and don’t indicate reach, but they do encourage readers to make time for a post when it has many tweets on it. (Or I should say, used to encourage that behavior.)

    I hope that Don Sturgill isn’t correct that we may see a “paywall anchored internet” soon. But I do agree that serious businesses and bloggers are going to continually have to add to what they pay for annually or monthly to retain features that have always been free in the past.

  4. I can’t help but think people are overreacting to this. Bots and automation tools can game the counts, blogger cliches and groups can game the counts, scripts can game the counts. Heck, there are even some social sharing tools that allow you to enter your own numbers…

    Instead of worrying about share numbers, worry about what happens on-site, and the actual traffic from networks as opposed to how many times there could be a potential visitor based on some perceived important share number.

    • Thank you, Danny! I feel the exact same way about it. This situation reminds me of what happened when Klout changed its algorithm years ago and people lost “points” overnight. Do you remember how people reacted?

      Those who are enraged should focus on more important things. The numbers game is getting really old.

      • Do you two not have clients who care about the traffic they get from Twitter? Large tweet numbers are social proof which grab attention and get people to read a post and retweet it. Without counts, there is no incentive. Traffic and retweets will drop.

        Twitter was the #1 traffic source for many of our blogs. Google Plus seems determined to kill themselves off and now Twitter has severely damaged their ability to encourage advertising. Both LinkedIn and Facebook stand to benefit – maybe even Tsu. Other platforms should be making bold moves to woo away disenfranchised Twitter lovers while they’re still upset about this.

        Warfare plugins should take the lead as they are the plugin more people pay for and in the best position to figure out what they would have to charge to restore live Twitter counts. If they didn’t already have counts archived on older content we might be tempted to remove Twitter sharing buttons altogether in favor of other social networks.

        Maybe we should choose another primary social network in the wake of Twitter share counts disappearing. The question is which one? G+ seems determined to commit suicide. Facebook ugh. LinkedIn just made bad changes, too. What about Tsu? Or maybe we should focus on GrowthHackers or Inbound or BizSugar or a combination of these instead of Twitter.

      • It’s not all about the numbers! For our site it’s about making comparisons between Twitter and Facebook shares. While larger numbers would be great, we armoire concerned about what articles/categories are shared on what platforms.

        I really think you need to look at the broader usage of the share counts as a group instead of assuming it’s entirely about the numbers for on for the other platform.

  5. This is because people have been taking the time to increase the number when it is gone all of the sudden. Of course, they’ll be angry.

  6. Less information does not make things better. Twitter should not break faith with users and yank this feature.