278365.numbers by Dang Nguyen

Social Proof of Twitter Buttons Is Out For The Count

<tl;dr> Twitter buttons stopped showing how many times a page is shared damaging social proof and potentially their own growth.

The count is down

On 20, November 2015 millions, if not billions, of Twitter buttons stopped displaying the numbers of shares.

Whilst Facebook, Linkedin and others still show the counts, the Twitter share button sits there number-less.


Twitter cited engineering challenges, most other share buttons not including a count and that 3rd party buttons had been using an unofficial API to collect the information.

Predictably the Internet, particularly the blogosphere went bonkers, especially bloggers, publishers and social sharing tool producers. Yes, but why, really? The debate boiled down to Twitter needs the cash / wants control / it was unofficial / you shouldn’t care about those metrics anyway.

Fortunately, a bunch of alternatives quickly appeared, although the longevity of some of these might be questionable.

Social proof goes poof

The main complaints about Twitter’s disappearing share count are the damage to social proof, one of the Robert Cialdini‘s six principles of persuasion.

Here’s a rather splendid animation that covers all of them…

So, social proof is rather important in establishing the credibility of a web page and one of the key factors at play for spreading content across social networks and engaging users.

Sure, share counts can be a vanity metric. Yes, they can be gamed. But that share count does create social proof, even if it’s later punctured. Most content shared hasn’t even been read.

That might not bother larger publishers, many of whom have dropped counts and can afford the tools or the raw data from Twitter – that’ll be $300-$5,000/month, pretty please – but for smaller sites that’s not an affordable option.

Twitter has a bunch of problems: a falling share price, a shared CEO, a culled engineering team but these structural issues are under the surface.

Now in a very public move, Twitter has damaged its own social proof by removing those counts.

The new Twitter share buttons are relegated to screen furniture rather than living, breathing indicators of user engagement, interest and the social flow of content. Further, they discourage webmasters, publishers and bloggers  by removing the feedback, analytics and let’s face it, instant gratification of shared content.

Not for the first time, the company has also delivered a kick in the teeth to the developer community, too. The removal of access to this data, without paying, means many of the sharing and analytics tools will have to be rewritten.

Sure this move benefits the engineering team and the bottom line, but with falling user growth, it seems like a daft time to be tinkering with a simple mechanism for user engagement.

Alternative Twitter share counts

Is your Twitter button busted? Here are some alternatives / fixes:

The post is part of my 2016 New Year’s resolution, day #2 to be precise, to try writing a post every day for 30 working days. Here’s the post that kicked things off and here’s the full list. It gets easier, right? You’ll also find more of this and other stuff @toodlepip and on Facebook.

Photo (cc) 278365.numbers by Dang Nguyen on Flickr.


Inquisitive. Hopeful. Jovial. Cantankerous. Digital marketer. Event organiser. Long-time fan of tech, collaboration and innovation. Exploring digital, social, business, technology, society, psychology & startups. Founder Chinwag, Digital Mission, Pitch NYC, ChinwagPsych. Former Exec Dir, Social Media Week London. More short stuff @toodlepip on Twitter.

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