On November 20, 2015, Twitter stopped showing share counts on its official embeddable Twitter buttons. It also discontinued the Twitter API that provided that information to various plugins and third party services that were showing Twitter share counts.
As a result, most sites no longer are able to display Twitter share counts.
Luckily, we have a fix for the problem of Twitter share counts not updating.
How to See Your Twitter Share Counts Again
There are alternative ways to display Twitter share counts since the November 20th Twitter count shutdown.
The first and “official” way to see Twitter shares is to use Gnip, Twitter’s data company. Share counts remain available through Gnip, but at a price. You will need to pay at least $500 per month, with some feeds like the Twitter User Mention feed remaining locked unless you pay extra. This could be an option for larger companies.
Since Small Business Trends has been getting lots of “Twitter share counts not updating” and “Twitter share counts not increasing” questions, CTO Leland McFarland has agreed to shed some light on how we display Twitter share counts here on this site. We do it without paying hundreds of dollars per month, as this site is a small business and that cost would be prohibitive.
For small business owners, McFarland suggests using OpenShareCount, which is a free to use, drop-in solution that will help you get the tweet count back in place.
Unless you have technical skill yourself, you may need help of a developer to implement the OpenShareCount solution fully.
Here are a few things you should know about the OpenShareCount API:
- This tool only works once you’ve signed up for the service and added your domain. If you get an error about your domain not being authorized yet then you might have to sign up again. Note: Due to caching, it may take up to an hour for the error message to go away.
- You will also always get zero ‘0’ counts for the first request to get a count for a specific URL. It may take you up to an hour to get the actual count.
- You can always test a URL in your browser: http://opensharecount.com/count.json?url=…. In place of the ellipsis, insert the URL you want to check. Again, make sure you are signed up for the service first, or you will just get an error message.
If your site has too many pages, the OpenShareCount API can fail to work for some time. So call the newer posts first and use caching for your older content, advises McFarland.
How Do I Get OpenShareCount to Work?
OpenShareCount can work in two ways. The first method would be to copy the code below and paste it into the source of your website, which is available right after the code for the existing Twitter button.
<a href=”http://leadstories.com/opensharecount” target=”_blank” class=”osc-counter” data-dir=”left” title=”Powered by Lead Stories’ OpenShareCount”>0</a>
The other option is for those who have custom social buttons on their sites. This custom option is to replace Twitter’s decommissioned API URL with OpenShareCount’s API URL.
In the code for your custom solution, you or your Web developer will need to find the URL to the old Twitter API, https://cdn.api.twitter.com/1/urls/count.json?url=, and replace it with OpenShareCount’s API URL, http://opensharecount.com/count.json?url=.
Here at Small Business Trends, we use Sharrre.com as the basis for a custom sharing button solution we’ve built. We have made it work together with OpenShareCount. What you see on the left side in a Desktop view of this site is our custom solution based on Sharre.com, displaying counts coming from OpenShareCount for Twitter.
Can Past Twitter Share Counts be Recovered?
No. According to OpenShareCount, they are only able to count tweets made from a week or so ago. Older tweet-counts are therefore gone, but at least all future tweets will show up since OpenShareCount will save them going forward.
There is also no limit to the number of shares that will be displayed. But OpenShareCount says that those with over 30,000 pageviews a day will need to look into caching the tweet count, so their system is not overloaded. We have implemented caching here at Small Business Trends, as we get substantially more than 30,000 pageviews per day.
You will also experience a bit of a delay between share counts and display since OpenShareCount needs to count the tweets and this can take some time.
Can You Still Use the Official Twitter Buttons with OpenShareCount?
You will no longer be able to use the official Twitter share buttons, unfortunately.
Instead you will need to install OpenShareCount’s tweet button (unless you have your own custom solution). Twitter’s buttons no longer show share counts, so OpenShareCount provides a bubble with a counter that can be placed next to it.
Once you sign up at the OpenShareCount website for the service, it will allow you to pick a Twitter button that will show counts as shown in the following screenshot:
What are the Disadvantages of Using OpenShareCount?
OpenShareCount says that their service is free at the moment. However, in the future they may start to charge for this service.
If the company ends up charging — or charging too much — then small businesses will be at a disadvantage. Small publishers and bloggers might end up back at square one.
Social media sharing plugin developers are also working on solutions. Whether those will be paid or free remains to be seen. Perhaps those developing social sharing plugins that display Twitter counts will weigh in below in the comments section.
Is OpenShareCount Reliable?
McFarland says that he has tested the new OpenShareCount buttons and they do a good job. He also thinks that OpenShareCount is committed to offering the best service since the company is continually working to make improvements.
“They did not always have the option to replace the Twitter share button. That is a recent addition,” McFarland says.
In addition to OpenShareCount and Gnip, other possible options for displaying Twitter share counts include: NewShareCounts.com and TwitCount.com. Ann Smarty also has an article on other alternatives for displaying Twitter share counts.
Marketers and publishers can use Twitter’s “search tweets” API. Once signed up and started, you can search for a specific word, URL or phrase. A big drawback, however, is that not all tweets are included.
The Impact of the Removal of Tweet Counts
For years now, tweet counts have acted as a social proof mechanism. The impression of a site with pages that have been shared hundreds or thousands of times was of course high compared with a site whose pages don’t appear to have any shares on Twitter.
With Twitter share counts not working and Twitter share buttons not updating, the social proof is no longer available.
For publishers and site owners, showing which content is popular on Twitter is important because they know readers like to see which content is most popular. Marketers are worried that clients may not be able to see how their content that they’ve invested in spreads. See our earlier coverage: Save Our Share Counts.
Research done by Shareaholic reveals that since the share counts were removed, the number of URLs shared on Twitter has reduced by 11 percent.
It’s likely that the reason for the drastic decline is that publisher no longer see the benefit of promoting shares that will not be reflected on their pages.
That said, right now, OpenShareCount is probably the fastest and cheapest way to make the Twitter share count work again for small businesses and bloggers.
Image: Small Business Trends
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