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Facebook Advertising Businesses Social Networks The Almighty Buck United States

Facebook Essentially Has Been Telling Advertisers It Can Reach More People Than Actually Exist, Analyst Finds (marketwatch.com) 117

Facebook claims its ads have the potential to reach more people than recent U.S. census data shows exist, and that's troublesome for one analyst, who thinks third-party measurement services stand to benefit. From a report: Recently, Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser was intrigued by a trade publication study in Australia that said Facebook was claiming to reach 1.7 million more 16- to 39-year olds than actually existed in the country, according to Australian census data. In reproducing the study for the U.S., Wieser said Facebook's Ads Manager claims it can potentially reach 41 million 18- to 24-year-olds, 60 million 25- to 34-year-olds, and 61 million 35- to 49-year-olds. The problem arises when Wieser pulls up U.S. Census data from a year ago, showing 31 million 18- to 24-year-olds, 45 million 25- to 34-year-olds, and 61 million 35- to 49-year-olds. The upshot: Where is Facebook getting the extra 25 million 18- to 34-year-olds that the U.S. census did not count? "Conversations with agency executives on this topic indicate to us that the gap between Facebook and census figures is not widely known," Wieser said. "While Facebook's measurement issues won't necessarily deter advertisers from spending money with Facebook, they will help traditional TV sellers justify existing budget shares and could restrain Facebook's growth in video ad sales on the margins."
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Facebook Essentially Has Been Telling Advertisers It Can Reach More People Than Actually Exist, Analyst Finds

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  • by Ryanrule ( 1657199 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @03:43PM (#55149785)
    Advertising/marketing should be about 0.001% its current worth.
    • On that note, I'd be happy to take your Apple and Google(Alphabet) shares off your hands for 99.999% off. (Both companies are essentially marketing companies powered by a little tech.)
    • Advertising/marketing should be about 0.001% its current worth.

      No, it should have a lot of value, it should just have more meaningful ethics rules. Perhaps even require a certain amount of actual, verifiable information per unit of advertisement, for example. Right now the only prohibitions are on untrue advertisements, those rules are usually difficult to enforce, and the incentivize the creation of content-less advertisement. Partly as a result of that, advertising has evolved to have less and less content over the last hundred and fifty years.

      Realize advertisement i

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      Biggest racket since religion

      Amen

  • Honest question.

    I'm thinking the Facebook numbers are closer to reality. After all, there are a LOT of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. at this point, and also probably a lot of people using some kind of internet service that appears to be from the U.S. to make use of U.S. media services. All of those Facebook would see, but not the census...

    The most interesting thing to me is it's only the younger demographic counts that are off; for the older ranges, the values match.

    • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @03:52PM (#55149859)

      Fake accounts, multiple accounts, fake information such as age/etc.

      • Nail, Head, Hit!

        1. 1) 41 million 18- to 24-year-olds = 10 Million people, 31 million fake accounts
        2. 2) 60 million 25- to 34-year-olds = 15 Million people, 45 million fake accounts
        3. 3) 61 million 35- to 49-year-olds = 15.5 Million people, 45.5 million fake accounts

        You have accurately diagnosed the issue.

        • Sock puppets are people too, my friend!

          ~ Mitt Romneyberg

        • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
          Problem is advertising people really don't care. They are given money to spend and by god, they are going to spend it.
      • *Nodding* yeah, you're right; 'troll accounts'.
      • by Falos ( 2905315 )

        Bots.

    • That could potentially explain the US numbers. But as far as I know Australia doesn't have quite the same issue with border control. The majority of illegals in Australia are people who overstay visas and that is about 65,000. No where close to 1.7 million, though census data is estimated, so that is more likely the issue.
      • That could potentially explain the US numbers. But as far as I know Australia doesn't have quite the same issue with border control. The majority of illegals in Australia are people who overstay visas and that is about 65,000. No where close to 1.7 million, though census data is estimated, so that is more likely the issue.

        Australia has recently done a full five yearly census, so census data is NOT just estimated.

    • There are actually very few undocumented immigrants in the United States. The millions of illegal immigrants in the country are mostly documented in one or more databases.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The census isn't over 30% off dude, just think about it for a minute, isn't the more likely explanation that the discrepancy is from fake accounts? It's like you've never gotten a fake friend request

    • Nobody faked being an overweight career focused 45 year old.

      Plenty of reasons to be a fake 18 year old party girl.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You are negating yourself here. According to you FB has lot of foreigners who appear to be US people to get US media services. So they are not US people. If my product is limited to US, the FB numbers are deceiving as they include foreigners.

    • I'm thinking the Facebook numbers are closer to reality. After all, there are a LOT of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. at this point,

      Gee, if only someone had ever tried to quantify the number of illegal immigrants in the US [pewresearch.org]...

    • Having advertised on Facebook, I don't trust them any further than I can throw them.

      If the site I was advertising really had the tens of thousands of clicks they claimed to have sent to my site, then the business in question (a small local restaurant) would have had 100% name recognition in the geographical area. They were junk clicks.

      Google clicks cost a lot more, but I believe them, if only for the smaller volume they could attract for the price.

    • I'm thinking the Facebook numbers are closer to reality.

      And people like you get to vote...

  • Fake Ages (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @03:44PM (#55149809)
    Do the authors of the article really not know that people use fake ages, have two accounts, etc.
    • Or "Age Identify" as another age all together.

      • by nnet ( 20306 )
        Can't wait for the underage drinkers and smokers to claim this when they get busted. "I identify as a 21 year old."
    • So, you're saying that the researcher is stupid because he doesn't know Facebook's data is bad... when the point he is making is that Facebook lies about its data?

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        Facebook isn't lying, its counting the information provided to it by users.
        • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
          Which is naive. Next you're going to suggest that we physicians should listen to our patients... hint: how can we treat unconscious people?
        • You're right, they're just naively reporting things strangers say on the Internet as true. Because obviously FB believes those statistics, and not just because it's in their financial interest.

          Although, I do have some money I need to move out of Nigeria, and if you help me move some of my royal inheritance to another bank I'll split it with you.

        • Which they know there ARE duplicates and fraud accounts as a sizable portion. They also claim to reach people, not have accounts that report as...
    • Or are just BOTS.
  • forgot to take into account all people with multiple facebook accounts

  • by Empiric ( 675968 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @03:48PM (#55149827)
    *demographic figures assume Everett Many-Worlds model of universe
  • by Anonymous Coward

    (Oh for fucks sake, we're an existing software company with a new product)

    Anyway, we have no CAPTCHA/robot check on our sign up form. And our execs love to brag about the userbase numbers both internally and to investors/partners. I'm fairly certain 90% of the users are bots.

  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @03:53PM (#55149875) Journal

    That's because you're reaching potential FB accounts, not people. There are many, many fake accounts on FB. I know of lots of people who have abandoned accounts and created new ones - either because they lost their password, or were being harassed, or because they just didn't know any better (my dad, who is not a big computer user, created a second account early on when he thought he was just logging in. It's still there, just not being used). As others have said, many people lie about their ages - at first FB would not allow minors to have accounts, so they would simply say they were at least 18. So that age range of demographics has to be quite skewed as well, especially the 18-25 range.

    • by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @04:11PM (#55149973)

      As others have said, many people lie about their ages - at first FB would not allow minors to have accounts, so they would simply say they were at least 18. So that age range of demographics has to be quite skewed as well, especially the 18-25 range.

      It still doesn't.
      Last year I created a Facebook account for my son, because he would get X free whatever-crap-in-game-currency-name-there-is for the farmville-like and dragon-something games he's playing if he connects those games to Facebook. I couldn't add his true birth year, so I told Facebook he was 16 (apparently if you're under 16 you can't make an account, whatever). now this must be the case for a huge number of teens and children under 16: some game or app offers you free Crystals or whatever if you connect your Facebook account, so there ya go. Then parents forget their passwords, new accounts get created, etc. Fake accounts galore.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      My first fake few weeks old Fb account got terminated several years ago. I made a new one after that, and it was fine. :(

    • I have three for various purposes, none of which are me or are connected to anyone I actually know...
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @03:53PM (#55149879) Homepage Journal

    Look, everyone has:

    school FB that your parents can see
    gaming FB that you use a gmail account for
    sports or arts or news FB that you surf stupid cat vids on

    in each group you connect to different people. You never post stuff to the first one that is really you.
    in the second one you only post cosplay or fake pics so nobody can figure it's you.
    in the third one you post a pic of a fuzzy animal or a truck or some animorph.

    Are you guys so new to the Net that you don't know this?

    • oh and figure about half of the 18-40 yo accounts are actually 10-17 yos fake accounts so they can use certain stuff on the net.

    • Are they really not smart enough to know that there are privacy controls and there's not even a need for multiple accounts to accomplish all that?

    • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

      Really? The people in that age range who I know think Facebook is for "old" people (i.e. people over 30).

      • Advertisers regard 18-35 as "young". Remember, these are corporations run by old people, their Boards are mostly 55-75 years old, and most of their executives are in their 50s. The corporations trying to sell stuff, that is. Marketing firms tend to be somewhat younger in age ranges, as is Facebook itself.

        The problem is the desire to reach a demographic. The means used depend on the group identified as desirable.

        They also think that Snap is a fad.

    • Are you guys so new to the Net that you don't know this?

      Nope. We're just aware Facebook has a feature called groups and privacy controls that can be set on that scale to not need to do garbage like playing with multiple accounts.

      Also "everyone" has one account which they use to mix work, friends and their drunk social lives in ways that they will regret in their future. Very few people have more. Between the paranoid approach, the techie approach, and the braindead approach it is a safe bet to assume the vast majority of people will opt for the latter.

      • Are you guys so new to the Net that you don't know this?

        Nope. We're just aware Facebook has a feature called groups and privacy controls that can be set on that scale to not need to do garbage like playing with multiple accounts.

        And some of us with, you know, actual brains, know that anything you post up to FB will sooner or later leak out as Friends of Friends of Friends get to see what their Friend's Friend's Friend liked. There are no, nor is it physically possible for there to be, controls on secondary dissemination of data.

  • So they are counting the bots and people with multiple accounts. AI-s are people too aren't they? If I have multiple personalities, can't someone use which ever account they feel comfortable with at the time. Can't we all accept each other without judging. Why should we let mere-biology facts dictate our biases? ;^)

    Or are we supposed to be hating on this (sometimes I forget, it's so complicated)...

  • I'm neither surprised nor upset that these scoundrels rip-off each other.

  • Why do people assume everyone has just one Facebook account? I've created throw-away accounts myself. Yes, Facebook would like to sell you on the total number of accounts created, rather than the number that are actually being used... but that would result in a lot less ad revenue, wouldn't it? My mother has a Facebook account that she literally hasn't logged into since 2007... but I'm sure Facebook still counts her as a customer! (She has alzheimer's, I'm pretty sure she's forgotten the password by now.)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why do people assume everyone has just one Facebook account?

      The same reason that you probably think everyone has any Facebook account (I don't). The people around you are like you and, being what you see most often, lead you to believe that everyone is the same as you.

  • My question,not being a facebook-er, is why does Slashdot have a facebook page? Who benefits?
  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @05:31PM (#55150361)

    Census data doesn't include Facebook bots.
    Obviously bots account for a significant portion of the numbers.

  • Which country is this supposed to represent again? The article claims both Australia and the US using census data.
  • Facebook does not get census data for each user. Instead, they infer demographics from user behavior or whatever information they bother to put when creating an account. Most 13 year olds are 31 year olds. A considerable number of users probably have multiple accounts to keep mom away from edgier aspects of their lifestyle. So this can be "as far as we know" instead of, or in addition to, straight WV-style cheating to tempt advertisers.

  • Fake/dupe accounts, fake DOBs. Used for spying on people, and used for older people to "be younger". They're pulling from their data stock, not from real data. Of course it's wrong.

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