The Facebook Like Button is not Viral

author: Chris date: February 8, 2011

Since Facebook released the Like Button in early 2010, the web has become plastered with buttons. The Like Button offers two promises:

1. Ability to message people who have Liked your page by posting to their newsfeeds.

2. Viral spread of your page by Likes posting into friends’ newsfeeds

Since release, we have performed experiments to pull out numbers on how effectively the Like Button performs these two promises. We have discovered the Like Button is effective at reengaging users but is almost useless for viral spread.

Reengagement with the Like Button and Graph API

We’ve found that a post to a Facebook Graph Object Wall has a click rate around 0.25-1%. For example, if 1000 people Like this article, and I post something telling those people about my newest relevant article, I can expect 3-10 people to click into that new article. This number is low, but since I can post content to this Graph Object every day, I can reengage 3-10 people every day. Over a month, I can get 90-300 clicks on my new content. I obviously can’t post the same thing every day for a month. Creating relevant stories to post to my Likes is an art.

Spreading content virally with the Like Button

We set up an experiment here. The goal was to measure the effectiveness of a Facebook Share button side by side with a Facebook Like Button. The app is simply a viral video with a Like Button and a Share Button. We initially advertised the app to 397 people. Over a three week span, the app ended up spreading virally to 5,170 people. Of those 5,170 people, 4,959 entered the app through a post of the Share Button and 211 through a post of the Like Button.

From this test, we can determine that the Share Button is 23x more viral than the Like Button. Why such a big difference?

The Share Button creates a large newsfeed post with an image and appears on the user’s wall and friends’ newsfeeds.

The Like Button creates a small non-graphical post that usually only appears on the user’s wall.

Our Recommendation

1. If you count on the Like Button for getting you new users, you will be dissappointed.

2. If you are chosing between Like and Share buttons, choose Share.

3. If you are interested in reengageing users who have liked your content, talk to us:


Since Facebook announced Like Buttons would publish full-sized feed stories, we ran the same experiment again to see how the new Like Button compares to the Share Button. This time we saw 7,943 users coming in through Share Button stories and, 1,890 users coming in through Like Button stories. That means the Share Button is still 4x more viral than the new Like Button.


Possibly, the Facebook EdgeRank gives greater emphasis on Shares vs Likes.

Also possible, is that more users are adding custom messages to the Shares. Posts with custom messages are known to draw greater click rates.

Like to know more about virality? Watch this free webinar: The Secrets of Virality

cateogories: Uncategorized

  • Rian Cool

    I ‘Like’ this article … but I would have ‘Shared’ it if you offered me the button!
    Practice what you preach sir! ;-)
    Very good stuff.

  • Rian Cool

    Nevermind … I found your share button. Good one sir.

  • Only Fort Bend

    I can see how this is true… Another reason why is, if you notice how most of your friends use Facebook, it’s through a mobile device. The “Like” button doesn’t show what you like on a mobile. So chances are, no one sees what you Like unless they are on a computer.

    The share makes more sense cause it’s like making a status post. Everyone sees it.

  • juanmarketing

    Well I mean, One thing is share button and another is Like Button. Comparing them is obvious that Share button is more viral than Like’s one because the result from Like button is just a little mention on wall facebook against a complete wall post when coming from share button.

    Actually the Like button goal is more about generate recommendation more than reach.

    Passion makes the difference

  • Philip Crawford

    Agreed. However, FB is steering people away from share. If you google “facebook share button” you end up on the page for creating a like button. They’re sneaky.

  • Anonymous

    Great information…very interesting. Thanks!

  • Danny Halarewich

    Anyone know where I can get the code for a Facebook share button? It’s been incredibly difficult to find, as Facebook brings you to the Like button. I don’t want a WordPress or Blogger plugin either.

  • Chris Turitzin

    True, Facebook is making it hard to find the share button. We use ShareThis to easily implement the button. It takes a javascript embed and 1 line of code.

  • Chris Turitzin

    Can you explain how the Like Button is more successful at generating recommendation?

    IMHO whichever stream story that is seen and clicked by more people is a stronger recommendation.

  • juanmarketing

    Hi Chris,

    I mean Like Button generates a positive mention “Like it” so recommendation more than a content shared. Does is makes sense? I mean is not only about share, but also about telling that I like it (positive feeling)

  • ethanaustin

    Couldn’t agree more. We’ve found the same to be true on our website, GiveForward. We recently replaced our Like button with Share Buttons and traffic has skyrocketed since.

  • Wilk

    Within the past week, Facebook has removed access to the Share code. The Share button still works, but previous Share support has been redirected to Like. A week to 10 days ago, they provided both, but they said the Like button was the prefered method going forward. Now I know what they meant by the preferred method.

  • Terry Crosby

    Great post. Currently, I am using both buttons. I am probably losing shares because people can choose the easier option by just clicking the like button. However, if I don’t have the like button will some people decide to do nothing?

  • Danny Halarewich

    Thanks, good point. I used “ShareThis” and the “AddThis” in the past, but didn’t think to check back if they still had the Facebook share button. Thanks!

  • Chris Turitzin

    If your focus is on viral spread of your article, I predict if you remove the Like Button, you will see higher virality.

    The Like Button does offer a lower commitment form of sharing something with friends, and there will be people who will only Like and not Share. But it may be worth losing these Likes for more Shares.

    You can only know through A/B testing and metrics. Please tell us if you get some data.

  • banane

    Totally- I’m about to write a post on here about mobile and virality, and how difficult it is for folks to share on a device. Liking is (probably) just not worth the effort, and I assume (and want to test) that the share count is far less than browser/computer-based sharing.

  • Dino Dogan

    makes sense…

    one thing that you didnt bring up is that people are hesitant to plaster a large picture+title+description on their newsfeed but will click on the Like which only creates a small text.

    Also, its much easier to Like than share (share opens an extra window where user can choose the image and what not)

    Finally, most users have no idea what the difference is.

    good info tho, Im glad to see some numbers in this regard.

    I think its really important to consider who your audience is and then provide social-share buttons accordingly. I know its somewhat off topic, but I hate seeing 80 buttons open up on some blogs….sounds like wishful thinking lol

  • daveevans

    Update this article, Share button is going away, Like button getting more prominent display and ability to comment as you post a Like.

  • Chris Turitzin

    We’ve done a new experiment on the new Like Button and updated the article.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, im trying to get rid of my fb likes button now and change it to SHARE button with counters.

    May I know what plugin you use or what code you use for this site? it look nice. thanks

  • Chris Turitzin

    Thanks for the comment.

    We use ShareThis to easily implement the button. It takes a javascript embed and 1 line of code.

  • Daniel Bödger

    Could you post a source code how to create a share, tweet and +1 ability like in your site here?!

  • German Gusev

    What is your opinion on the Share button now that FB plans to discontinue support for it ?  They also claim that all of the functions of the Share button will be merged into the Like button ?   Is your article above still relevant ?  

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