By now you should know that social buttons on your website or blog are a great way to draw attention to your profiles on various networks. Not only that, social sharing buttons make it easy for readers to share content directly from your site with their networks.

These icons or buttons — such as Google+ 1, Pinterest’s “Pin It,” and Twitter’s “Follow” — usually appear near your headline or above the fold on your website. Often times these buttons will feature a count or tally of the action it promotes. But what you might not know is that this tally doesn’t always mean what you think it does.

Take the Facebook Like button for example. The Like button is a simple plugin that lets people quickly share content on the social network. Generally this button appears with a number next to it, which might make it easy to interpret your content’s popularity, but that number doesn’t represent the total unique visitors who have Liked your site.

According to Facebook analytics provider Wise Metrics (and confirmed by Facebook documentation), this button’s tally is actually made up of three metrics: the number of Likes of this URL, the number of shares of this URL, and the number of Likes and comments on stories about this URL.

In other words, if someone shares your URL on Facebook by copying and pasting it, it will be included in your Likes count, even if that person didn’t click on your Like button. If friends of this individual Like or comment on the shared story, those actions will be added to the tally as well.

Why does this matter? As a marketer, you rely on a variety of metrics to gauge the success of your social media interactions, content, and campaigns. As you record numbers and share them with your team, it’s more valuable to know what each of those tallies represent. Most of the time the definition is clear, but in some cases, you’ll have to dig a bit deeper.

[Via: AllFacebook, Image credit: Daniela Vladimirova]