US Census data shows that Facebook might be overstating its Audience Reach for ads on the platform

Is Facebook overstating its Audience Reach for ads? US Census data shows that they might be...

Last week, the spotlight was turned on social media giant, Facebook, with concerns being raised over the accuracy of their Audience Reach estimates for ads on the platform.

As Variety reported last week, Brian Weiser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group, published analysis that indicates Facebook could be greatly overstating its reach for certain US user segments. This, he adds, isn’t widely known by advertising agency executives.

According to Facebook’s Ad Manager, the platform has the ability to reach 41 million 18-24-year-olds, 60 million 35-49-year-olds, and 61 million 35-49-year-olds. However, according to the US 2016 Census, these estimates can’t be correct as they’re above the estimates collected by the census for each age group. For example, the 2016 Census recorded only 31 million people aged 18-14, yet Facebook’s Ad Manager claims it can reach 41 million in that demographic.

The Guardian also points out that similar discrepancies have been found for audiences around the world. In the UK, for example, Facebook claims it can reach 7.8 million users aged 18-24. However, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were only 5.8 million people in the UK belonging to that age group in the year 2016.

In a statement, a Facebook representative said that the estimates “are not designed to match population or census estimates.” Instead, as Variety explains, the estimates are based on the likes of user behaviour, user demographics, and location data.

The TJM take: In their statement, Facebook also pointed out that no ads are bought or sold based on the Audience Reach estimates. Although we can’t see Facebook losing business from advertisers because of this, marketeers should always validate their data from multiple sources.

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