On November 25th, 2015, Twitter removed its share counts. Millions of site owners that had been able to show their content was liked enough to get shared were suddenly out of luck.
Twitter gave us fair warning, of course. They even gave an explanation. But it still seems like one of the stupidest moves in social media history.
Part of the reason this still bugs me so much is that Twitter is my favorite social media platform. I’ve invested a lot in it. I plan to invest more. And removing those share counts probably did more damage to Twitter than it did to us – its users.
How so? Since the counts were removed, sharing on Twitter has fallen by 11%, according to research from Shareaholic.
I could complain more (and many have), but it wouldn’t do us any good. The shares are gone – at least in terms of what Twitter will give us. But fortunately, there are other ways to get those share counts. Five other ways, actually.
If you need highly-accurate share counts to measure your content’s performance, check BuzzSumo. They’re still showing shares counts via their free tool. You can access them via their website or install their Chrome browser plugin and get share counts on the fly.
This free service can restore the share counts to your Twitter share buttons. I’ve tested it on my site, and it worked.
Here’s the test page with just the Twitter button:
After I added the line of code to the page (I pasted it in right between two paragraphs of copy), the share count appeared again… but with a count that read zero.
Then I shared the page via the Twitter button – twice, from two separate Twitter accounts.
It took about five minutes for each new tweet to update the counter. So far, so good. However, I also shared this page via Buffer to one of those Twitter accounts… and the counter didn’t update. It’s possible the count didn’t update because I shared this link to the same Twitter account twice – it may only count how many Twitter accounts a link gets shared to.
How to set NewShareCounts up
To use this, you’ll need to give them read-only access to your Twitter account. Then they’ll ask for your email address, too (they promise to not spam). But after that, you’re free to use this on any page, either with the standard Twitter button or with these popular sharing buttons:
NewShareCounts works with a bunch of other sharing plugins, too – check their site to see if your plugin is listed.
Installation is also really easy. You copy a line of code they give you, then paste it in anywhere on the page. And you’re done. No configuration is necessary. And for those of you who are afraid of code: You can cut and paste, right?
The one drawback with this service is that unless you had a very popular site before November 2015, you’re going to have to restart your share counts. I’m sorry – I know that’s a bummer. But all the more reason to install this sooner rather than later.
For those of you with popular pages – your pages may have been among the billion pages that NewShareCounts logged before the official Twitter count shutdown. So if you had, say, 3K Twitter shares for a page as of October 31, 2015, that page is probably popular enough to be in that group of the 1 billion most popular pages. So your share counts from before November 2015 will be restored. The rest of us are out of luck.
What about the time between November 2015 and whenever you install this code? That is a little murkier. As NewShareCounts’ help page says, “some shares will be lost between November 2015 and the day you add you site to tracking.” So it’s not a perfect system. But it’s definitely better than nothing.
Also, don’t freak about having to add unique code to each individual page on your site. The code they ask you to add is the same for any page on your site – so a simple search and replace function (or adding the code to your pages’ footer) will get the job done.
3. Open Share Count
This is another service that adds share counts to Twitter share buttons, or to third-party sharing buttons.
Setup here is similar to NewShareCounts. You give them read access to your Twitter account. Then you give them your email address.
Then you have two choices: Add their line of code right after the official Twitter share button, or you can use any share button, but you’ll have to swap out part of that code and replace it with the Open Share Count API code. They give you very specific instructions on how to do this, but if you’re not comfortable with coding, it’s possible you’ll want to hire a web developer (or a web designer with developer’s skills) to make the change for you.
Here’s what my test page looked like after I added the Twitter button and the lines of code from Open Share Count:
Then I did the same thing as before: Tweeted this page via the Twitter button to two different Twitter accounts, then shared a tweet from this page via Buffer from one of those same Twitter accounts. I did that at 2:34pm. By 3:08pm, two of those shares were being counted:
The Buffer share still hasn’t shown up, but it hasn’t shown up for any of the three services tested here.
No, it’s not a tool to count twits. It’s yet another way to get your Twitter shares back. TwitCount works just like NewShareCount and Open Share Count – you give them read access to your Twitter account, then you give them your email address. You choose which site you want to track tweets from.
Next, you set up your button. Like this:
Then they give you the code to paste into your page. And behold: I got a Twitter count button.
It just didn’t have any tweets logged. So I did the same routine as before – shared it to those two Twitter accounts (directly to Twitter – this button doesn’t actually have sharing functionality. It just counts shares). Then I shared the page again via Buffer. That was at 2:55pm. Within 15 minutes, two of those shares were being counted by the button.
About 20 minutes later, a third share showed up. This wasn’t from the Buffer share – it was because someone retweeted one of my test tweets. The TwitCount widget even showed me who did the retweet.
TwitCount does something else the other services didn’t: It automatically posted a promotional tweet about its service to my Twitter account. Not the worst thing in the world, but a little invasive. Makes me worry they might decide to promote themselves again via my Twitter account… without asking for permission.
5. Get Gnip
Gnip is “an enterprise metrics solution” Twitter bought about a year before it yanked share counts. It can still give share counts via the Gnip Engagement API, which sounds promising – at first.
But Gnip isn’t free. According to MarketingLand and Social Media Today , using Gnip to get Twitter counts starts at $300 a month and goes up to $50,000, depending on how often you use their data.
If it was only $300, perhaps some large blogs and sites could choose this. But $50,000? You’d have to be among the Fortune 500 to consider a cost like that. So while Gnip exists, it’s a bit rich for most of us. Fortunately, the four other options mentioned here are more affordable.
Twitter’s move late last year disappointed and/or infuriated a lot of us. It sparked the hashtag #SaveOurShareCounts, and contributed to the hashtag “RIPTwitter”. All of the hullabaloo aside, though, it just left us without one of our favorite metrics. Maybe not the most meaningful metric, but one we relied upon nonetheless.
Fortunately, three out of the five options mentioned here can get you your share counts back. They’ll appear right on the page, almost exactly the way they were before… except you’ll have to restart the counts.
Also remember that your new share counts may not count re-shares or third-party tool shares. They won’t count retweets, replies, or all the other interactions on Twitter. But at least you’ll be able to demonstrate some social proof for your content.
What do you think?
What’s your opinion of Twitter’s move to cut share counts? Do you think any of the five options mentioned here can help you replace those lost counts? Or – if you’ve used any of these services, what do you think of them? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.