A Non-Existent User Base
Facebook is a powerful entity, yes. They possess the power to reach a significant amount of people worldwide, yes. However, they cannot achieve the impossible, even if it’s what they have claimed to do.
In a recent report, Facebook estimated their reach in the U.S. as a staggering 162 million people between the ages of 18 and 49 years old. The problem is, according to the U.S. census, only 137 million people between those age groups exist.
Brian Weiser, a researcher for Pivotal Research Group, first caught the exaggeration in Facebook’s advertising analytics in Australia. He found that the company claimed to reach 1.7 million more users ages 16-39 than resided in the country at the time.
After reproducing the study with the data from the U.S. census, Weiser found that the same mistake had been made.
This is particularly true when it comes to users between the ages of 18-24 and 25-35. While Facebook claimed to reach 41 million people in the younger age group, they overshot by 10 million. For ages 25-34, Facebook again claimed to reach 15 million more people than the census recorded.
Second Time Around
This is not the first time Facebook has been in trouble for exaggerating their user base. Last year, we reported how Facebook skewed their paid ad metrics for video viewership. After admitting to their miscalculations, they planned to fix the error by enforcing a Measurement Council and by assigning more descriptive names to their metrics.
Even with the extra oversight, Facebook just cannot seem to get it right.
A spokeswoman for the social network said that “user behavior, user demographics, location data from devices and other factors” all played a part in their estimates.
Doomed for a three-peat?
Regardless of their on-going plans to refine their data, companies that can afford it may start using third party measurement services. Outside resources will be able to give more accurate data, especially in times where Facebook may be inflating their numbers.
As history goes, it may not be too long before they report another miscalculation.