Have you noticed (I know you have) a plethora of Facebook posts lately that have a line at the end asking you not to share the post, but to copy and paste it? Sometimes it includes an “explanation” that the audience will be larger if you copy-paste rather than share.

Um, not exactly. I mean, sometimes, but not always. Let me explain…

Every Facebook post has an audience. The most common ones are “Public” and “Friends Only.” You control this setting, and it can be adjusted globally or on an individual post.

If a post is public, everyone can see it (except people you have blocked, but there are ways around that, so assume everyone can see it). If a post is Friends Only logically enough, only your friends can see it.

When you share a post, it retains its original audience. So if I create a post that is public (either by default or by changing the audience for that specific post) and you share it, it remains public and everyone can see it. If I create a post that is Friends Only and you share it, only my friends will be able to see it (and, depending on your privacy settings, our mutual friends).

If you want a post to be seen and shared by as many people as possible, set it to Public and forego that “copy-and-paste, don’t share” line.

When your post is a share, remember that it (still) retains its original audience. So if I share a post from a page, keeping in mind that everything on a page is Public, and my post is Friends Only, when you go to share it, your post will include the post (and link, if applicable) that I shared, but not any commentary I added when I posted it. On the other hand, if my share of the original post is Public, then you share will include the original post/link and my commentary.

Confused? Don’t worry. It’s confusing. The net-net is this:

If you want a post to be shared and seen by as many people as possible, set it to Public. Click here for clear instructions on how to do that.

Ok, but what’s the harm in asking people to copy and paste?

Glad you asked. Two problems:

First, it’s kinda obnoxious. You’re asking people to take the long way around, so to speak, and fewer people will. Because clicking Share is simpler.

Also, you’re asking people to participate in the potential for likely unwanted tracking. When people share a post, only the person who created the original post can see how many people and who shared it. When they copy and paste, these posts can be easily found, and the people who copy-pasted can be targeted…not necessarily for anything nefarious, but still. This article does a good job of explaining how this works.

Oh! And 2.5: Let’s say you create a post, set it to public, and lots of people share it. After doing so, you find that there’s something wrong with it. If people have copy-pasted, there’s nothing you can do. If it’s been shared, though, and you correct it, the correction will be reflected in all the shares.

So in summary: Please don’t ask people to copy and paste posts. Make ‘em Public if you like, and let the social media collective do its thing.

Thank you.