January 16, 2022

Conference Paper: “Challenges of Capturing Engagement on Facebook For Altmetrics”

The following paper will be presented next week at the  23rd International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (STI 2018) in Leiden, The Netherlands.


Challenges of Capturing Engagement on Facebook For Altmetrics


Asura Enkhbayar
Simon Fraser University

Juan Pablo Alperin
Simon Fraser University


via arXiv


Previous research shows that, despite its popularity, Facebook is less frequently used to share academic content. In order to investigate this discrepancy we set out to explore engagement numbers through their Graph API by querying the Facebook API with multiple URLs for a random set of 103,539 articles from the Web of Science. We identified two major challenge areas: mapping articles to URLs and the mapping URLs to objects inside Facebook. We then explored three problem cases within our dataset: (1) identifying a landing page for any given URL, (2) instances where equivalent URLs are mapped to different Facebook objects, and (3) instances of different articles being mapped onto the same Facebook object. We found that the engagement numbers for 11.8% of all articles that have been shared on Facebook at least once are not reliable because of these problems. Moreover, we were unable to identify the URL for 11.6% of the articles in our data. Taken together, the three problem cases constitute 12.3% of the 103,539 tested articles for which engagement numbers cannot be relied upon. Given that we only tested a small number of problem cases and URL variants, our results point to large challenges facing those wishing to collect Facebook metrics programatically through the available API.

Direct to Full Text Paper
10 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.