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Social media marketers spend hours trying to explain the value of impressions to their clients. It’s not just about the likes and comments, it’s about the number of people who are exposed to the brand. While a particular post may have only received X amount of likes, the brand message was seen by Y number of people. Marketers eat analytics for breakfast, but what about the average user?
A scathing article by Buzzfeed published on July 11 accused Facebook of hiding the number of views each status received, “it’s in the company’s best interest to keep that information to itself.” Why would Facebook want to do that?
Facebook users would be turned off if they could see exactly how many people are actually viewing their posts but not interacting with them. “My graduation photos look so good, but where is the love? 500 people saw them, but only 5 liked or commented!” The theme behind the Buzzfeed article is that users wouldn’t post as often if they realized how many people saw their statuses and ignored them.
The average user has little to no idea how Facebook’s algorithm works. They post a status, assume that it goes out to most of their friends, and rest assured knowing that everyone they know will be fascinated by their political opinions. In actuality, that number turns out to be significantly lower than expected. “I have 750 friends, but only 100 saw this status. What’s the point of posting on Facebook if no one is going to see it?”
As the article gained traction, Lars Backstrom at Facebook took to his public page to call out Buzzfeed and set the record straight about the general public’s perceived interest in impressions – or lack thereof.
According to Backstrom, Facebook has already done tests on whether or not users care about the number of viewers, and found people care more about who liked their posts over how many saw them. While posting a status as a brand is about gaining maximum exposure through views, posting a status as a person is about making sure the right people see it. If your ex-boyfriend became jealous after seeing a picture of you with your current boyfriend, who cares that 250 other friends also saw it?
Backstrom also used his soap box to clarify the premise of Facebook’s Algorithm. He explained that the developers have found that people read fewer stories when they’re published in chronological order than when they are ordered from most interesting to least. Many Facebook detractors have argued that the website should show every single status the same way Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest do, but Facebook stands by its algorithm because it’s what they think users want. The same goes for labeling views for personal posts, there’s no perceived interest.
What changes would you like to see implemented at Facebook? Should users be able to see the number of impressions or is it perfect just the way it is?