Your Facebook posts are typically seen by three times as many people as you think they are, claims a new study.

Researchers at Stanford University found that users of the social media platform drastically underestimate the number of people looking at their content based on factors including how often their friends post, plus how many likes, comments and shares they receive.

‘Posting to a social network site is like speaking to an audience from behind a curtain. The audience remains invisible to the user: while the invitation list is known, the final attendance is not,’ writes Stanford assistant professor Michael S. Bernstein in the study.

‘Feedback such as comments and likes is the only glimpse that users get of their audience.’

While Facebook does have access to data about how many people look at each post, it only shares this information with advertisers and not with ordinary users.

The research suggests that is a situation that Facebook wants to maintain because users would post differently if they had a proper breakdown of who was viewing their content.

The researchers found that what users post is based on the reactions that they have received to what they’ve posted in the past.

If people knew that their posts were having much less impact on their audience they might choose to post less frequently which would be a disaster for Facebook which like all successful social media platforms depends on user interaction.

The research, carried out in tandem with Facebook’s data science team, looked at 220,000 users over the course of a month.

They found that Facebook users reached 35 per cent of their friends with each post and 61 per cent of their friends over the course of a month.

The researchers suggest that users are also happy to underestimate the size of their audience because if a post receives little or no comments it is more comforting to believe that few people saw it rather than accept that many people saw it but few liked it.

‘I think this is something we need to better understand,’ Bernstein told Buzzfeed, arguing that fear of rejection is just one of many possible reasons Facebook users underestimate their audience.

‘When I post content, do people not react to it but enjoy it? Do they not react to it and it is grating on them over time and they choose to unsubscribe? We don’t know.’

The researchers are keen to carry out more in-depth analysis of social media and how people react with it.

source: Dailymail UK