Each user post on Facebook is seen by an average 35% of the user’s friends, according to a comprehensive recent study led by Stanford University researcher Michael Bernstein, who collaborated with three Facebook data scientists.
Facebook changed the algorithm determining what posts show up in your News Feed this week. So amid all the new attention paid to the algorithm, called EdgeRank, it’s worth looking at how much it filters what you see.
This study has the best data out there on that.
The changes Facebook made affect everyone, so although the Stanford study predates the changes, it’s likely the average number of people who see user posts will remain the same.
According to the study, posts that do not receive likes or comments tend to be seen by less friends: an average 28.9% of a user’s network.
Over the course of one month, Facebook users in the study had at least one of their posts seen by an average of 61% of their friends.
This study whipped up some controversy a few weeks ago when a Facebook critic pointed out that the social network is not transparent about the relatively small proportion of friends who see your posts.
But interestingly, the researchers found Facebook users actually underestimated the audience size for their posts. When asked about a specific post in the past, a sample of users surveyed directly said they believed an average of 60 friends had seen it, when the real average was 99.
There were 220,000 Facebook users followed in the one-month study, with an average of 266 friends. All their posts in June 2012 were collected, but analysed in the aggregate to maintain privacy. To determine whether a post was actually seen the researchers observed internal Facebook log data to see that the post had been in the viewable area of the friend’s News Feed for at least 900 milliseconds.
In our view, these are the most important takeaways from the study, published in April:
- The actual audiences for user posts on Facebook are larger than anyone might assume them to be.
- A post’s visibility is positively correlated with comments and likes on the post.
- A small core of followers seem to be responsible for the lion’s share of activity around user posts: 95% of the users in the one month study had less than 40 friends who liked their posts and 18 who commented.
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