So…you want to display the number of times your url has been shared/liked on Facebook, but you don’t want to just use the Like Button with the count? I don’t blame you, while I use the Like button when appropriate (and that IS the easiest way to get that number, it doesn’t help you at all when you want to do something a bit cool with the information, or display it in a unique format.
So, there are 2 ways currently to get an URL’s Facebook Shares. You can make a query against the Facebook REST API and use the links.getStats method, or you can use the Graph API to make an FQL (Facebook Query Language) call.
The REST API is really easy to use, but unfortunately, it is deprecated, so Facebook could shut it off tomorrow if they wanted to. Personally, I doubt it gets shut off, but don’t come crying back here if you use it and something stops working because they do.
To make a call using the REST API, using one of my more popular posts as an example, you can make a query to the following URL like so:
That will return a block of XML (yes, XML) that looks like this:
<links_getStats_response xmlns="http://api.facebook.com/1.0/" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://api.facebook.com/1.0/ http://api.facebook.com/1.0/facebook.xsd" list="true">
Then you’d just need to parse that returned XML into a usable format and grab the values that you want. Generally you are going to want the total_count element, but sometimes you may want to differentiate between Shares and Likes.
Unfortunately, as mentioned, the REST API is deprecated, so if that concerns you, you can use FQL to query Facebook using the Graph API.
You can query the link_stat table with something like the following query:
You can make a GET request to the Graph API and the Graph API will give you back a JSON response listing the fields you requested.
https://graph.facebook.com/fql?q=SELECT url, normalized_url, share_count, like_count, comment_count, total_count, commentsbox_count, comments_fbid, click_count FROM link_stat WHERE url="http://www.local-pc-guy.com/web-dev/facebook-feed-dialog-vs-share-link-dialog"
The returned JSON should look like this, and is very easy to parse for the data you want.
My recommendation is to go ahead and get comfortable with, and use, the FQL query syntax and the Graph API. That way you are protected against the REST API going away and you get JSON, which is slightly easier to work with than XML.
Enjoy querying against Facebook, FQL is quite powerful and there is quite a bit of information you can get with a bit of digging through the docs.