NEW YORK -- The next time you think about complaining about the information overload on Facebook, consider this: It could be much, much noisier.
Facebook's algorithm carefully sorts through the fire hose of content produced by your friends so your News Feed shows only the posts that the social network thinks you'll find most titillating. So just how much gets filtered out? And how many people are seeing what you share?
At the first Facebook Marketing Conference held Wednesday in New York City, Facebook executives offered a glimpse at the answer: This has far-reaching consequences for brands seeking to reach customers online, as well as individuals hoping to spread the word about their engagement or most recent meal.
On average 16 percent of an individual's friends will see a post that person shares on Facebook, according to the social media company. The same is true of a company's fans.
That number varies according to several factors, such as how often viewers return to Facebook. And if a user has only a handful of friends, she is more likely to see a higher share of the content that those people post.
"That's the average across all posts from all profiles and all pages of all different audience sizes and all different networks," said Chris Cox, Facebook's vice president of product. "For any given post or given profile owner, you might see a totally different number, but this [number] is to present an order of magnitude."
Facebook shared the statistic as part of its pitch for a new advertising product, the Reach Generator. The tool will allow marketers to increase the number of Facebook fans who view content they post on the site by paying for better placement on the site's homepage, in users' News Feeds and on Facebook's logout screen.
The social network explained that with help from the Reach Generator, brands could expand their footprint on Facebook from reaching 16 percent of their fans to touching 75 percent of them in a month.
Delivering more ads, which Facebook was careful to brand as "stories," means Facebook adjusts the News Feed and takes advantage of the real estate on users' homepages. A user will only see sponsored content from a brand in his or her News Feed if a friend has engaged with the brand's post, such as by "liking" or commenting on it.
"When a brand wants to make sure they're going beyond that 16 pecent … we optimize our systems to increase that delivery across the premium placements we talked about today," said Brad Boland, Facebook's director of product marketing. "We look at ways to ensure fans will be able to see those stories that are created and it's something that's worked directly into the algorithm of our system to deliver out to fans."
The makeup of the advertising on Facebook is also going through a change: Rather than promoting company's slogans, banner ads or logos, Facebook will promote the content a company has posted on their page, be it a photo, status update, or poll.
"You have an identity, use it. You have a voice, express yourself," Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said during the conference's keynote. "Your customers are listening and your customers are talking, so engage them."