Do You Really Want Facebook Telling You How Many People Are Ignoring Your Posts?

    July 21, 2013
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

What does it actually mean when one of your Facebook friends “likes” one of your posts? In reality, the like is purposefully vague. It can show support, solidarity, agreement, and a wide array of positive emotions. It can show appreciation, awe, or simply come about as a friendly gesture. Do I really like this photo of your baby’s first whatever? Probably not, but I know it’s important to you so I’ll “like” it.

In the end, the like (and the comment and share) mean one thing – interaction. They indicate that your friends saw your post, and it moved them to participate in one way or another. More likes, comments, and shares mean that more people saw your post – and more importantly, more people cared.

But what if nobody actually cares what you’re posting on Facebook? What if the amount of friends who are seeing your posts is much higher than you think – and they’re just not interacting. Would you really want to know how many people saw your post and simply allowed it to scroll on by? Do you really want to know the full extent of the situation? That many of your social media posts aren’t going unseen – they’re just being ignored.

Would you want Facebook to tell you exactly how many of your friends saw each and every one of your posts Let us know in the comments.

For some time, page admins have known that posting on Facebook is like trying to get the attention of people at a loud party, only they’re all drunk and you don’t have a microphone. They see you and they hear you, but a lot of the time they just don’t care enough to pay attention. Facebook has shown page admins and marketers the actual number of people who see each of their posts for some time now. For instance, a page owner is able to see that though their post only received 8 likes and 2 shares, 1,700 people actually saw it in their news feeds. It’s both a helpful metric for determining audience size and a powerful reality check.

So, what if that metric could be extended to the average Facebook user? Would you want to see just how many people are seeing your posts but deciding not to interact?

A recent Buzzfeed article suggested that of course people would want to see this, but Facebook doesn’t want them to. In fact, they suggested that it’s in Facebook’s best interest to keep users in the dark.

In fact, most of what happens after an update is sent out takes place out of sight – only Facebook knows the truth. And it’s in the company’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.

The logic here, of course, is that users would probably stop posting status updates, photos, check-ins, etc. if they knew they were simply being ignored by a large percentage of their friends. Discouragement would turn to apathy and Facebook users would stop providing all those juicy data points that the company uses to sell ads and monetize.

Once users were face to face with the reality of their own ineffectuality and were forced to stop blaming Facebook (they’re not showing my updates to enough of my friends!), the illusion could crumble, leaving a disinterested user base. And as we know, disinterest is the social media killer.

The most interesting thing about BuzzFeed’s allegation is that it garnered a response from an actual Facebook News Feed engineer. Lars Backstrom posted this to his Facebook page, denying that Facebook was actively trying to hide this info from users. He argues that the average user probably doesn’t care about the “people who saw this” metric:

As someone who works on News Feed at Facebook every day, I wanted to take a moment to clarify and correct a few aspects of a Buzzfeed story that was posted yesterday: http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/the-number-facebook-doesnt-want-you-to-see

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. But, from what we’ve seen, including the raw numbers isn’t worth the space it would take up on the screen. The Buzzfeed author notes that we do show advertisers how many people see their posts. That’s true, but we also show this information to Group members and Page owners who aren’t advertisers. That’s because these people care about how many people see these posts; everyday users — not so much.

I don’t know. Do you buy that Facebook users don’t want to see this information?

Facebook is no stranger to complaints about users’ news feed visibility and allegations of foul play. You may remember that earlier this year, multiple page owners and a few tech writers accused Facebook of pulling a bait and switch when it comes to post visibility in the news feed. The claim was that Facebook was decreasing the visibility of users’ posts in others’ news feeds in order to force them into paying for a Promoted Post.

Facebook vehemently denied those allegations. They admitted to adjusting the news feed algorithm to show more relevant posts (exact quote: The News Feed changes we made in the fall to focus on higher quality stories may have also decreased the distribution for less engaging stories from public figures) – but they denied decreasing organic post reach in order to force the use of Promoted Posts.

In his rebuttal, Backstrom took the opportunity to address this as well:

“I think that this is also a good opportunity to clear up a few other misconceptions about how News Feed works, since there are a lot of rumors and theories floating around. The prime directive of News Feed is to show you the stories that you will find most interesting. If our ranking system thinks that you’ll find a post very interesting, we’ll publish it near the top. If a story seems less likely to be interesting to you, we publish it further down, below other things that seem more important.

Our ranking certainly isn’t perfect and we are continually refining it, but we’ve run many tests showing that any time we stop ranking and show posts in chronological order, the number of stories people read decreases and the amount of likes and comments people produce decreases. That’s not good for our users or for Facebook. All said, this Buzzfeed article suggests that we have lots of ulterior motives when we make decisions about News Feed. The reality is that we’re just trying to show people as many interesting stories as possible.”

Here’s the reality: more people see your Facebook posts that you think. Just because that photo of your awesome lunch only got 3 likes and 1 comment, it doesn’t mean that only a handful of your friends saw it pop up in their news feeds.

In fact, think about this: how many people do you think see each one of your Facebook posts? Got a number in your head? Good, now quadruple it.

Back in March, Facebook contributed data for a Stanford University study that addressed this very issue. What it found was that Facebook users vastly underestimate their audience size.

“Users underestimate their audience on specific posts by a factor of four, and their audience in general by a factor of three. Half of users want to reach larger audiences, but they are already reaching much larger audiences than they think. Log analysis of updates from 220,000 Facebook users suggests that feedback, friend count, and past audience size are all highly variable predictors of audience size, so it would be difficult for a user to predict their audience size reliably. Put simply, users do not receive enough feedback to be aware of their audience size. However, Facebook users do manage to reach 35% of their friends with each post and 61% of their friends over the course of a month,” concluded the researchers.

Simply put, the reason your tuna salad photo only received 3 likes has nothing to do with Facebook’s algorithms. It just means that nobody really wanted to “like” it.

Knowing the reality, would you really want a metric on all of your posts that lets you know exactly how many users saw them? If so, I propose a new metric – the Facebook depression quotient. Just divide the total number of users who saw a post by the combined number of likes, comments, and shares to find your FDQ.

Do you think Facebook is intentionally hiding this metric because they don’t want you to see the reality? Or do you think that the vast majority of users simply don’t care. Would you want this metric attached to all of your posts? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.rankwatch.com Rank Watch

    More detailed the data Facebook starts giving about the virality of the post, more they help a brand lose grip in terms of what to share, and also might make them think is it the right place to promote this kind of stuff are they the right kind of audience and many many more. This will lead to question marks in advertisers mind. Facebook must just give them a teaser and most often than not should give their user a satisfaction and urge to share more.

  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    It would be a good idea if the poster could see the amount of people reading their posts in the same way as webmasters can see who looks at which page from their weblogs.Then they would stop publishing rubbish and only publish stuff with content that is read.This would increase standard and type of post helping advertisers aswell.

  • http://www.jazzabells.com rudy

    I think the story is correct from my postings on FB, I just don’t get any hits on my site from posting and we have a very good site. Reason why I say we have a good site is a good return from other areas of the net, we really don’t need FB.

  • Scott

    In my opinion, just because you don’t get a like or a comment does not necessarily mean nobody read the post. Besides thats not what Facebook is about anyhow! I’m usually posting on Facebook very early in the morning – So I assume my post are not seen by many anyways. However, it doesn’t really matter because I use Facebook as more of a venting place & sort of a life journal. . . If I’m having a tough time, I simply get on Facebook and post what I’m feeling. Most times it takes the weight off or relieves me a bit. I don’t think it really matters to most people.

  • http://www.cynthiafernandes.info/ cynthia

    yes would like to know how many saw my post

  • http://www.cynthiafernandes.info/ cynthia


  • hugh connor

    I think the breaking point is the moment you post something and No one sees it or read it.

  • Kal

    If someone clicking a button affects you that much, you probably shouldn’t be on Facebook. I see a pattern to those who like certain things, so then when I post something about a specific topic, I already know who to expect to like what. Also, if someone were to like EVERYTHING all the time, it would feel fake.

    Not to mention that Facebook doesn’t share everything with everyone. It is a % value and also depends on how much you interact with who, and the more likes it gets, the more it is spread around between your friends.

  • http://www.chemicalmaterialsuppliers.com Chem Supplier

    Just because somebody didn’t “like” or made comment didn’t mean they didn’t read it. I don’t always click like or make comment. If my friends posting or a page posting don’t make sense or not quite what I had in mind, I would give it a miss. A like is more like a vote of support. And comments were just to fill in my two-cents worth of opinion. Of course if I made a posting, I do get a kick out of having a reaction. Some postings are just for fun. For business FB page, well, it provide a simple feedback, but FB likes should not be a benchmark of your own brand popularity.

    • http://113tidbits.com 113tidbits

      Unfortunately, the likes play a huge part in telling potential clients if you’re truly making a presence.

  • Al Del Vecchio

    Facebooks is becoming increasingly irrelevant

  • Richard Lee

    Depression quotiant yikes!!! It’s all about sustaining user base and aquisitions to increase value to the user at this point. Good user experience means cash and empire expansion. Instagram was the last cool social app to launch… path is weak at best and I’m familiar with soundcloud but dont have a need for it personally. Let someone else build products then buy them out. I’m becoming quite bored with social media and am ready for the next thing. (And the empire crumbled… Noooo). Lets not forget what’s “cool” to this generation will be lame to the next. At least initially so there will be opportunities real soon as fb apathy sets in. I mean am I the only one who finds it exhausting anymore?

  • http://113tidbits.com 113tidbits

    I’m slowly migrating fans out of the fogginess of Facebook.

  • Glenda Oakley

    Does not bother me if they like it or not, if it tickles their fancy and they like, that’s fine. Like someone just said, I already know who might like my post and who will not. I do like it though if someone likes my post or finds it interesting enough to comment. Sometimes people are busy and don’t have the time to look at all the posts.

  • Francesca

    I like it when people like, share and comment on my social media posts. Even though I receive less people seeing the post. The whole idea is to get them to engage with what I have posted.

  • http://www.donloper.com Joshua Steimle

    Give us the data, give us the option to hide it, and let us decide. I would love to have the data. If I knew how many people were seeing my feed but not interacting, it might prompt me to figure out how to post content that leads to more interaction, which would be a positive for Facebook and everyone else.

  • Judi

    It is public info therefore I should know and a formula to work in the post response would be lovely. Thank you for you consideration.

  • Joshua

    I sometimes like to see who clicked “like” on my posts. I don’t need to see how many people viewed my posts. My posts will show up in news feeds of friends. It doesn’t mean that they viewed it. I don’t want to see how many people ignored my posts.

    The only situation where this might be important is if I were using a page to promote a business or community organization.

    While I sometimes like to see that some person and 14 others liked my posts.. I don’t even always pay attention to that. But I don’t need to see “This person and 500 other people ignored your post.”

    Already, facebook has a lot of problems. There is virtually no support for users having technical problems with facebook. In my experience so far, facebook has a lot of problems that need to be dealt with. Even the idea of notifying users on their personal profile page how many people are ignoring their posts seems about as silly as trying to market the HTC facebook phone.

  • KWPT

    If you like the Gov to know what you think then stay on Facebook.
    I got off Facebook a year ago when the adds fill my page with all kinds of adds. an the biggest lie is your E-Mail address will not be published that BS. The Gov can find out who you talk to an get there address an come to your home an ask you question.

  • http://www.herbalhealthzone.com RB

    I use Facebook to share with my friends and family. I don’t need to know how many people saw my post, I am not a business.

    For my business FB pages I very much appreciate that I can view stats, but that’s because I have goals and targets and having that information allows me to adjust accordingly.

    If a personal user is using Facebook to try to be seen as much as possible, then inherently they are obviously a narcissist and would likely be upset to see figures that illustrate they are generally being ignored.

    Just because the information is gathered doesn’t mean it would serve any purpose being shared. :2cents

  • http://english-4u.net/online Pete

    I really don’t care if they like my posts or not…. I really don’t care about Facebook…

  • sally

    I would love to know how many of my friends actually see my posts, but dont care enough to comment or like them. I think that would help me to know who my true friends really are. As it is now, it seems that only a handful of my friends ever like or comment on my posts and they are the same few every time. I wonder if its just that facebook isn’t making my posts visible enough, or do my friends really see them and just ignore them? I want true friends in my social circle, not people who are just friends with me to keep their friends list numbers high. This is apparently the case for some people and I don’t think that is the reason that Facebook was created. So I say yes to knowing who all views my status updates and pics.

  • RJ

    We were really cooking along on our FB page getting what we thought was great visibility for our number of fans. So we decided to try some PAID ads. Just a couple of short campaigns for certain limited promotions. Since we stopped those PAID promotions our post visibility dropped from 1000+ (prior amount to paid campaign) seeing our posts to 50 or 60 only now seeing it. You can’t tell me that FB is not baiting us to start the PAID campaigns again. Same on them for having so little respect for us.

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  • Captain Sarcasm

    Myspace showed number of views near the end of their heyday. It was a crap feature, not asked for, not needed. Facebook is right here.

    The news feed ruined social media! I preferred when I went to whomever’s page I felt like. Believe it or not, I can predict what I care about 100% better than fb’s “metrics.” It’s astounding what happens when you let your customers actually tell you what they think, rather than try to convince them that you know what they think. Novel idea, call me crazy.