Social media tends to take one of two directions – it either casts you as the life of the party, joking with friends and sharing widely visible status updates, or plunges you into the role of a loner weirdo who shouts into the abyss regardless of who’s listening.
Forget the likes and comments for a minute. How many people are actually seeing what you’re putting out on Facebook.
Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel suggests that it’s a small number and Facebook doesn’t want you to know:
It’s in [Facebook’s] best interest to keep that information to itself. The company knows full well that the only thing worse than speaking to an empty room is speaking to a room full of friends and family and having them ignore you.
He cites a Stanford study (conducted with Facebook’s participation) indicating that Facebook users have generally miscalculated the size of their audience, with an individual post reaching roughly 31% of a user’s friends and a month of updates only reaching 61% of his or her friends.
Warzel posits that it’s in Facebook’s interest to stick with likes and comments. Who would want to see that 500+ people read your post and not one of them responded somehow?
Facebook engineer Lars Backstrom has some heavy critiques here. He writes that Warzel’s entire conceit is incorrect:
The main premise of the article – that everyone wants to know how many friends see each of their posts and Facebook doesn’t want to tell them – is just plain wrong. A few of us did build and test a feature like this internally. Our conclusion after testing it: people are way more interested in seeing *who* liked their posts, rather than just the number of people who saw it. In fact, in all of the thousands of pieces of feedback we receive about News Feed each month, virtually no one has asked to see this information. If we saw enough people asking for this, we would definitely consider building it into the product.
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