How Many Facebook Fans See Your Posts? [Results]

I ran a Facebook experiment today to determine just how much Facebook contributes to whether or not you see updates from Pages. There has been an awful lot of talk about the “16%” of Fans who see your posts, and I think that we generally have overreacted to assume this means Facebook picks and chooses who sees what with their algorithm.

My Theory

The main reason that only 16% of Fans see your post is that they simply aren’t online at the time. EdgeRank, while it does exist, has very little impact on what you do and do not see.

What I Wanted to Prove

Those who do not see your Page posts due to Facebook’s algorithm are in the extreme minority.

The Experiment

One day prior to running the experiment, I wrote this blog post and shared it to my Facebook Page, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Google+. I also sent an email blast to my subscribers letting them know of the experiment, and then I sent another email 15 minutes before the experiment began.

I did this because I wanted to maximize the number of people who went to their News Feed and waited for the post as opposed to those who saw it naturally. I also wanted to make sure that people were informed on what I was doing so that I received as many accurate responses as possible.

At 9:30 AM EST, I wrote this status update:

ALERT! This is my experiment! Click Like if you see this update. Please comment if you saw it in your News Feed or if you had to come to my Page to see it. Thanks!

If you’re confused, please read here for details first:

The goal was to have as many people knowledgeable of the experiment ahead of time as possible. I was looking to limit the number of people who weren’t informed and may have commented inaccurately without fully understanding what I was looking for.

The Results

Within 30 minutes, my status update had received 75 responses. All but one of those responses said that they saw my update in their News Feed (one person said they saw it in their Ticker but did not clarify whether it showed up in their News Feed). I asked that one person whether they had their News Feed set to “Most Recent” or “Top Stories” since a setting on Top Stories could negatively impact the order of their News Feed for the purpose of this experiment. They did not respond.

Facebook Experiment

Experiment Weaknesses

If 25 or more people actively and not passively participated in this experiment, I could potentially have accurate results. If, say, all but one of 25 people participated and saw my update in their News Feed as expected, that could mean that EdgeRank has little impact on what they see and don’t see. But I don’t know how many actively participated, which is a weakness in my results.

Another weakness is the uncertainty about how EdgeRank works. Sure, we have a very general understanding. But is it real time? Was the experiment flawed because the likes and comments on my status update increased EdgeRank, thereby increasing the likelihood that Fans would see it? Since EdgeRank favors those who interact most with me, couldn’t we then assume that the vast majority (if not all) of the participants would be seeing my updates as a result of EdgeRank?

Experiment Conclusions

There is certainly some level of doubt in these conclusions due to the lack of ultimate control as well as a lack of full grasp on how EdgeRank works. But one thing was clear:

All or close to all of the people participating in my experiment saw my status update.

There is a concern that a positive EdgeRank (lots of people liking and commenting, among other factors) impacted this, but my assumption is that this is largely only when viewing News Feed by “Top Stories.” The point of Top Stories is for Facebook to determine “what is important” to you. This does not appear to impact a “Recent” sort much, if at all. If participants reacted immediately after my posting (and many did), I would not expect EdgeRank to have an effect on real time, immediate activity.

Was this experiment scientific? No. Are there flaws in the process and findings? Sure. But does it provide some useful data? Absolutely.

At most, one person participating in this experiment didn’t see my status update because Facebook kept it from them.

That tells me that we need to stop whining about EdgeRank and Facebook keeping our Fans from seeing our content. It tells me that we have much more control over what content Fans see than we originally thought.

The one thing we don’t have control over: Whether Fans see an update because they aren’t online. But that’s nothing to get angry over, now is it?

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  • Chrissy

    I wonder if how engaged they are with you/the page has any bearing? 

    • Jon Loomer

      Hey, Chrissy! This certainly has an impact on the ‘Top News’ sort option, but if you are viewing by ‘Most Recent’ there should be no impact.

      It is an area that has not been explained thoroughly by Facebook, though, and I believe there is a misunderstanding of how and when EdgeRank impacts results.

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  • Hugh Briss

    I think you’re kind of missing the point of Edgerank and how it affects what people see. Sure, if people aren’t using Facebook at the time you post a status update they won’t see it until they do check their newsfeed, which may be hours or even days later and that’s the whole point. If they view their newsfeed as “most recent” and they have 500 friends who are all active and they haven’t checked their newsfeed in 8 hours, and if you posted your update 8 hours before they check, then the chances they’ll see your post are slim because it’s going to be at the bottom of 8 hours worth of posts from their friends.


    If they view their newsfeed as “top stories”, then Edgerank will most definitely have an impact on whether they see your post or not. If, you share quality content that entices fans to engage by like, comment, or share on a regular basis then your Edgerank will be high and Facebook’s algorithm will determine that they will be more interested in what you post than their friends and family and when you post an update and that person who hasn’t checked their newsfeed in 8 hours starts reading and you have a higher Edgerank score than most of their friends, then instead of your post being at the bottom of the list, it will be much higher and could easily be near the top.

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  • Jessimica Clarke

    At the bottom of a Fan Page status update (in the admin panel), you can see exactly what # and % of the pages fans have seen the status, as well as how many people saw it virally (aka one of their friends like the status update). A more accurate experiment would be to post a status update at a specific day/time (monday at 9pm for example), and then do a similar status update at the exact same time the next week, but “promote” it to your fans for the first hour then stop. Comparing the % of your fans who saw each status should, in theory, give you a pretty accurate % fans who were online for the first status update but didn’t see it in their news feed. Thoughts?

    • Jon Loomer

      Hi, Jessimica! Interesting thoughts. I guess if you subtracted the difference, that would tell you around how many saw or commented based on promotion.

      My main goal of this project was to find out whether people were prevented from seeing my post by EdgeRank, and if so how many. There are so many factors involved and so many unknowns about how EdgeRank works that it makes it difficult to run an experiment that actually does what I want.

      Great idea though, and thanks for reading!