Facebook has been inflating its advertising audience reach

Facebook may have inflated its advertising audience reach when comparing it to US census data, according to Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

Wieser noted that the Facebook Adverts Manager tool promises a potential reach of 41 million 18 to 24-year-olds in the US. However, latest US census data shows that there are only 31 million people within that age bracket living in the US.

Wieser explained:

“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.”

Facebook commented on the claims in a statement saying that its audience estimates did not match census data, but the inflated numbers “are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an add a business might run. They are not designed to match population or census estimates.”

In addition, reach estimates are based on demographic factors and self-reported ages, which may further allow them to vary from census data. Facebook uses location data from mobile devices which means that tourists and visitors can be counted.

This is not the first time Facebook had to clarify the miscalculation of its metrics. In 2016, the social media company apologised for inflating the average amount of time users spent viewing videos on the platform.

In February 2017, the company had its metrics checked by the US Media Rating Council and once again admitted to misrepresenting its clicks.