Facebook Math…It Just Doesn’t Add Up

According to some sketchy metrics from the good folks at Facebook, there are 300,000 invisible Swedes, and about 10 million Americans we can’t find…

Let me explain.

The Ad Contrarian has uncovered some ridiculousness in how Facebook describes its potential reach. As he notes, Facebook has a relatively long history of getting metrics wrong, like their wildly inaccurate video viewing data. Then came the missing Swedes.

“According to a recently published report, Facebook says they reach 1.5 million Swedes between the ages of 15 and 24,” AC writes. “The problem here is that Sweden only has 1.2 million of ’em. If Facebook reached 100% of them, they’d still be 300,000 short.”

Now, a significant chunk of young Americans seems to have gone missing.

“Facebook’s Ads Manager says that the website is capable of reaching 41 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24,” AC notes, citing Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser. “The problem is there are only 31 million Americans of that age. But hey, what’s 10 million people here or there?”

Image source: The Ad Contrarian

In response, FB gave a pretty confusing answer, saying “[The numbers] are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run. They are not designed to match population or census estimates.”

More likely, I suspect those numbers are indicative of the vast amount of fraudulent, inactive or duplicate accounts on FB. Either way, they hardly represent real people interested in your real ad for your real company.

Clearly, some brands must be finding FB advertising useful, or they wouldn’t be doing it – although recent research from Civic Science shows that social ads really aren’t great at driving conversion.

“By and large, social networks haven’t cracked the code for social commerce just yet,” writes Rimma Kats in eMarketer. “One main reason? In many cases, consumers aren’t very interested in buying something while they’re on a social platform.”

Meanwhile, Facebook is moving ahead with plans to advertise in Messenger … maybe they’ll find those missing millions lurking there. We expect Messenger ads will be about as popular as the mid-roll video ads they tested and are quietly backing away from. Again it makes us ask if social is okay, or has it simply lost its collective mind.