Just how many people viewed your last Facebook update? 10? 50? 100? Well according to a recent report by Stanford University, your audience could actually be as large as four times what you’d imagine.
Stanford’s study, called “Quantifying the Invisible Audience in Social Networks”, analysed Facebook updates from 220,000 users and tracked their real audience against the author’s estimates.
What it found was that users underestimate their audience on a specific post by a factor of four, and their audience in general by a factor of three.
That means that Facebook users are broadcasting to an audience three times larger than they anticipated!
This size mismatch can lead to problems for Facebook users they believe they are speaking to a small, close group of friends, whereas that’s not the case. This can affect what users post, how often they post and the type of content they share.
Why do people underestimate their impact?
One explanation could be down to the fact that only a fraction of those who see their activity will choose to like or comment on their post and will likely have done so already in the past. Lots of comments and likes from a small group of people (close friends and family) can lead users to believe that they are the only people seeing these updates.
For these posts without feedback, it might be more comfortable to believe that nobody saw it than to believe that many saw it but nobody liked it.
Stanford’s report also shows that this is not the case as “Facebook users do manage to reach 35% of their friends with each post and 61% of their friends over the course of a month.”
Now you know that you’re actually reaching many more of your friends than you anticipated, maybe you’re not entirely comfortable sharing some updates with everyone. That’s okay.
There are ways to make sure that you only share your updates and photos with the right people.
Use Facebook Lists
Similarly to Google Circles, Facebook allows you to place your friends into various lists which can range from Family to “Acquaintances”, once you’ve done that you should be able to control which groups can see various aspects of your activity.
Once you’ve got lists set up, you can chose who can see what you’re posting:
For instance, maybe you don’t want your work colleagues seeing your holiday pictures; just take a little care when setting up your album and that won’t happen!
Conduct a friend audit
Next time you log onto Facebook take a look at your friend’s lists and make sure that you’re happy to share with everyone on it.
It’s no bad thing to remove a few people who you don’t really know or no longer contact, or if you want to keep them, think about moving them into the “acquaintances” list.