Solidarity Times is now only visible if you are in Ireland


A few minutes ago we made Solidarity Times Facebook page invisible to people who are outside of Ireland. This post explains why we did this, but remember you can still see all the content by following our WSM Ireland page so don’t panic!

The image is the example we are going to use to illustrate what we write here. Its our reports from the wildcat secondary picketing action by Bus Eireann strikers at the end of March 2017, posted as news broke this was happening. We published more or less identical stories on the strike to both our pagse but as you can see from he graphic above the number of people each story reached was very different, in particular note the small page reached much more.

At the time Solidarity Time had just under 10,000 follower but the story reached almost 25,000 people. For every two followers of ST we reached 5 people.

At the time the WSM page had 66,000 followers but the story only reached 8,500 people. For every 30 followers of the WSM page we only reached 4 people,

The difference in the number of people reached per follower is about 21 (or 2100%). Which is huge. And as we are all volunteers and no one is getting paid here the only reason we write & publish is to reach people so if something has that big an impact we have to act.

What happened here is something Facebook called Edgerank. It’s a calculation Facebook does on every page and every story posted to every page that determines how many people will be shown that story ‘reached’. Essentially YOU generate our Edgerank score both for the page and for each story by deciding to engage or not engage with each story we post that Facebook shows you.

Engagement means clicking Like, Share or commenting on the story when you see it. When you do that
A) Facebook adds to the Edgerank score of the page meaning you will be more likely to see future stories from us
B) Facebook adds to the Edgerank score of the story meaning that it will show that story to more people later on in the day.
If a lot of people are shown a story but don’t engage with it Facebook decides its not an interesting story so shows it to fewer people. More damaging if this happens with a several stories Facebook decides the page is not that interesting and so shows all stories to fewer people. So you can see why Edgerank score is important.

Back at the start of 2015 we became aware that the WSM page which had a huge following of around 50,000 people had a problem. If we posted a story about a big international struggle, say Palestine, it got a lot of engagement and a lot of people where then shown it. If we posted a story about anarchist history the same thing happened. But if we posted a story about a strike in Ireland there was very little engagement and very few people saw that story. This was bad news for us as a lot of our day to day work is organising here in Ireland and we clearly need to be able to reach people in Ireland.
We knew that 70% of our following on that page were people outside Ireland so it made sense that they would be interested in a big international struggle or anarchist history (a lot of them are anarchists). And it also made sense that they might not understand the detail or significant of a local strike and almost certainly would have nothing to say about it and no reason to share it.

We knew a bit about Edgerank so we decided to launch a page that would just be directed at people in Ireland just telling them about struggles here. This is what became Solidarity Times. We were careful not to promote the page to people outside Ireland, we avoided sharing to pages & groups with big international followings. When we share stories to our profile we often set them only to be visible to people in Ireland.

This worked very well, as the Bus Eireann strike result demonstrates we are able to reach 21 times more people and almost all of these people are living in Ireland. We can get stories about Irish struggle to ‘go viral’ even though they are pretty meaningless to people outside Ireland. We need to retain that ability.

It appears about 8,000 of our 10,000 followers live in Ireland. We’d guess that maybe 50% of the remaining 2000 are people from Ireland who have migrated out of the country in the last few years. And the other 50% are people who have never lived in Ireland but who found and followed the page either because they are anarchists and so interested in WSM or because they are activists around a global issue that has had a manifestation in Ireland which we reported on. So for instance people who oppose oil companies might have followed us because we reported on the struggle against Shell in Rossport. And right now pro-choice activists in other counties are following us because we are reporting on the struggle to get rid of the 8th amendment.

And there perhaps you see our problem. There are a lot of pro-choice activists internationally, hundred of thousands if not millions. As May approaches our local struggle to Repeal the 8th is going to be on all of their radars and if we are continue our work we will be an excellent source of news that is not being covered elsewhere. Our 80% ‘in Ireland’ following could be very very quickly reduced to a tiny percentage and once the referendum is over those new follows are not likely to be that interested in our coverage of other struggles here. Meaning our future stories are no longer able to reach many people. Our previous experience suggests that could be a huge drop off, we could lose 95% of our reach.

So we are acting now by changing our page settings to make posts only visible to people living in Ireland. We’d prefer another solution and we may well remove that restriction after the referendum but for now its what is going to happen in a couple of days. But if you are outside Ireland you can still get the same stories by following our WSM Ireland page where we will repost content from this page. In fact if you aren’t from Ireland you may find the versions there more useful as we often add some explanation when we copy over material to explain local terms and contexts. And - but normally a bit later - we will add the same stories to our website - which in the current period acts as an archive.