If you spend a lot of time on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed how it feels smaller and smaller. Are you seeing the same 10 posts multiple times a day, and only seeing a few people on your feed? It’s not just you: a side effect of Facebook‘s targeted algorithm is that it narrows your view. This is particularly frustrating for business owners, who rely on their content reaching as much of their audience as possible.
Blogger Chris Aldrich started noticing the same trends and went digging for answers. What he found was the Facebook Mom Problem – Facebook is limiting who sees your content based on who has liked it. As Chris puts it:
I write my content on my own personal site. I automatically syndicate it to Facebook. My mom, who seems to be on Facebook 24/7, immediately clicks “like” on the post. The Facebook algorithm immediately thinks that because my mom liked it, it must be a family related piece of content–even if it’s obviously about theoretical math, a subject in which my mom has no interest or knowledge. (My mom has about 180 friends on Facebook; 45 of them overlap with mine and the vast majority of those are close family members).The algorithm narrows the presentation of the content down to very close family. Then my mom’s sister sees it and clicks “like” moments later. Now Facebook’s algorithm has created a self-fulfilling prophesy and further narrows the audience of my post. As a result, my post gets no further exposure on Facebook other than perhaps five people–the circle of family that overlaps in all three of our social graphs. Naturally, none of these people love me enough to click “like” on random technical things I think are cool. I certainly couldn’t blame them for not liking these arcane topics, but shame on Facebook for torturing them for the exposure when I was originally targeting maybe 10 other colleagues to begin with.
As Chris goes on to explain, Facebook’s algorithm is sophisticated enough to recognize that his mother is liking his posts, but not sophisticated enough to distinguish between “liking a post because it’s family-related” and “liking a post because he’s my son and I want to support him.” The algorithm simply assumes any mom-endorsed posts are only of interest to family.
How to Combat the Problem
After some experimenting, Chris found a solution to get around the mom problem:
Facebook allows users to specifically target their audience in a highly granular fashion from the entire public to one’s circle of “friends” all the way down to even one or two specific people. Even better, they’ll let you target pre-defined circles of friends and even exclude specific people. So this is typically what I’ve been doing to end-around my Facebook Algorithm Mom problem. I have my site up set to post to either “Friends except mom” or “Public except mom”. (Sometimes I exclude my aunt just for good measure.) This means that my mom now can’t see my posts when I publish them!
Chris clarifies that he later goes back and changes his posts to public, so that his mom can see his post. But by first distributing it to a non-family audience, he ensures that the algorithm doesn’t incorrectly classify his post. You can use this technique with your own posts.
As the algorithm improves, hopefully this issue will be resolved. But for now, you may have to exclude mom from your digital life.