Your mom is killing your chances of going viral on Facebook

Unconditional love means unconditional likes. At least, that’s how it works with Chris Aldrich’s mom, who “auto-likes” everything he posts to Facebook. Family pictures? Like! A blog post titled “A New Low in Quantum Mechanics?” Like!

Aldrich, who has degrees in electrical and biomedical engineering, mostly publishes about tech and math. Things, he says, his mom does not know or care about. As Aldrich told me during our Skype call: “The reason she likes these posts is, well, because she’s my mom.”

Last winter, Aldrich started to suspect these mom-likes were affecting the amount of people he reached on Facebook. So he decided to exclude her from his preferred audience.

Facebook lets users decide who should see their posts, and allows for groups, and even individuals, to be excluded. Aldrich would cross-post his articles to Facebook, using a plugin called Social Media Network Auto Poster (SNAP), while excluding his mom. He would then let the algorithm run its course, allowing his stories to show up on the feeds of his friends and peers. After a day or so, he would add his mom to the mix so she could see – and like – his articles.

The results of this little experiment, he says, were significant. According to the data he collected, about ninety percent of the posts he published to everybody but his mom received far more impressions.

Two weeks ago, Aldrich wrote a blog post about his findings. It quickly got picked up by some tech blogs, and soon, comments from people with similar experiences started pouring in. Besides moms, says Aldrich, other relatives were mentioned too: “But the algorithm problem does seem to be mostly mom-oriented.”

I asked Aldrich about his collected data, but he’s still debating whether or not to release it. After all, it’s such a small sample that it doesn’t hold any scientific weight. He did tell me, however, that the mom-effect was statistically significant. 

Also, he’s not sure how people will use and interpret the data. “Many content marketers contacted me since my post went viral, asking me about details. But I did not write this article to promote some sort of posting strategy; my goal is to inform people on the workings of Facebook’s algorithm, which can be manipulative.”

He would like for Facebook to fix the issue, though, so loving mothers everywhere can keep auto-liking their offsprings’ creations. “I’m still sitting here holding my breath for Mark Zuckerberg to click like on my silly article, so it might be fixed. I’m sure some high profile Facebook employees have seen it, so I guess it’s only a matter of time.”

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