HOW TO: Use Facebook Privacy Controls on Your Fan Page

by Mollie Vandor

Mollie Vandor is the Product Manager for and Media Director for Girls in Tech LA. You can find her on Twitter and on her blog, where she writes about the web, the world and what it’s like to be a geek chic chick.

Lately it seems like Facebook changes its privacy options more often than most people change their statuses. Late last week, Facebook rolled out yet another set of new privacy settings, replacing regional networks with concentric circles of connections. Before, Facebook’s default privacy settings were largely location-based — people who lived near you, or went to the same college as you, were able to see more information about you. Now, access is all about who you know and who knows them.

The new Facebook publisher privacy controls are a core component of this change. Now, instead of simply posting something to your entire network, you can choose to specify who sees your posts. It’s pretty easy to figure out how to use these changes to your advantage when handling your personal Facebook page — those happy hour pics should probably only get posted to people who are actually your friends. But figuring them out for fan pages is a very different proposition, especially because privacy settings for Fan Pages are still all about location, location, location.

What Are the Fan Page Publisher Privacy Controls?

Facebook Privacy Image

The publisher privacy control is the icon that, ironically, looks a little bit like the MySpace logo. You can find it on the publishing area of your Fan Page, right next to the share button. When you hover over it, you should see a prompt that says “Everyone.” This is the default, so if you don’t do anything to change it, your posts will automatically go out to all your fans’ feeds. However, if you click on the privacy control, you can customize your posts so that they only go out to fans who speak a certain language, fans who live in a certain country, or even fans who live in certain cities and states.

You can also create combinations of customizations by sending the post out to people in multiple cities, multiple states or multiple countries. There are some limitations — at the moment it doesn’t appear that you can specify certain cities and states within a country and also share that same post with certain cities and states within another country. You can, however, share with multiple countries at once. Using the controls is pretty easy. The hard part is figuring out why you would want to use them in the first place.

Spread the Good Stuff Out

Facebook Privacy Image

There’s a thin line between engaging your Facebook fans and annoying them. Target and time your content correctly, and you’ll get all the clicks you could possibly want. Don’t, and you’ll either miss the boat or make your fans want to throw you overboard. That’s where the privacy controls can really come in handy.

Say you’ve got a great piece of content that you want to promote, and you want it to reach as many of your fans as possible. If your fans are spread out into multiple time zones, you’re going to run into issues trying to time the post for a window when everyone’s likely to be checking Facebook. And you definitely don’t want to post the same piece of content over and over — that’s a recipe for really annoying your fans. Now you can target your posts by time zone, so you don’t waste your best content by throwing it into the feeds of fans who are probably asleep. Just use the publisher privacy controls to roll that good content out region-by-region throughout the day and you’re all set.

Get Tested

What better way to test the web waters than with a good A/B experiment? Post two different pieces of content to two different (but demographically similar) regions. Once your posts are up, there are plenty of ways to measure engagement and find out which one worked and which didn’t.

Even if a post fails, your Facebook fans will likely be more forgiving than the audiences on most other major social media platforms. Unless it’s outrageously offensive, bad content on Facebook tends to just get swept away in the stream, which makes the publisher privacy controls the perfect way to find out if your fans want to follow you in that new direction you’re contemplating.

Control for Culture

With 350 million users and 70 different translations, it’s no wonder that Facebook is a whole world unto itself. Your Facebook fans could be coming from any corner of the globe. Unless you’re selling something that everyone in the world is interested in, there are probably some posts that will entice one group to click through and another to click away. That’s the perfect publisher privacy control situation.

First, you should know the demographics of your users. If you don’t, there are plenty of great tools to help you track and triangulate them. Once you do, it’s relatively simple to figure out which regions of fans will want which types of content. By targeting your posts to particular regions, you can avoid offending certain fans. But, more importantly, you can post more content more often. Because you won’t be posting every piece of content to every fan, you can post a higher volume of content, so you get more information into the Facebook stream and more relevant content to each region of your user base. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Take on the Trends

Trending Topics Image

Let’s face it, what’s cool in California isn’t necessarily blowing up in Burma. The world is a big place, and the World Wide Web is too. While there are some memes that make their way around the globe, there are many trending topics that take off in particular places, or for particular groups of people. And I’m not just talking about the topics people are tweeting about. From major events to sporting matches to local news, there are all sorts of bandwagons your fans could be jumping on. And if the people you want to communicate with are on the bandwagon, shouldn’t you be there too?

Of course, you don’t want to cram content about every single trend into every user’s Facebook feed. That’s why you should use the publisher privacy controls on your Fan Page. Target your post to the place your topic is trending. That way you can jump on all the bandwagons you want, without causing content overload for all your fans.


When it comes to managing your Fan Page, the publisher privacy controls let you post more content, more intelligently. By targeting your posts to specific people, you can post more often without saturating the streams of all your fans, and you can pinpoint the people who are most likely to respond to and engage with every piece of content you post. Use the new privacy controls to pick the perfect demographic for a particular piece of content, test new types of content, and time your posts for maximum return. Controlling where your content goes helps you better control your brand and build your user base. That’s an awful lot of power for one puny little privacy button.

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