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Real or Fake? What Advertisers Should Know About Facebook User Numbers

Posted on 2.04.2014

Facebook looks stronger than ever. During its quarterly earnings report, the social media giant reported 1.23 billion monthly active users (MAUs), 757 million daily active users (DAUs), 945 million monthly active mobile users and 556 million daily active mobile users . In short, you're using Facebook... a lot (and that's good news for advertisers).

But how many accounts are real - and how many are fake? Facebook fortunately went even further during the call, revealing some insightful information about its subscriber base:

- 4.3 percent to 7.9 percent of accounts were duplicates (meaning someone has created more than one account for an individual), or anywhere between 52.89 million and 97.17 million.

- 0.8 percent to 2.1 percent were incorrectly classified (meaning someone has created an account for something not someone), or anywhere between 9.84 million and 25.83 million.

- 0.4 percent to 1.2 percent were undesirable (meaning accounts created to violate Facebook’s rules), or anywhere between 4.92 million and 14.76 million.

Even though the social media network is reporting ranges (which make it difficult to understand whether fake accounts are increasing or decreasing), they did provide some guidance as to where the data came from and how it is calculated:

"The numbers for our key metrics, which include our DAUs, mobile DAUs, MAUs, mobile MAUs, and average revenue per user (ARPU), as well as certain other metrics such as mobile-only DAUs and mobile-only MAUs, are calculated using internal company data based on the activity of user accounts. While these numbers are based on what we believe to be reasonable estimates of our user base for the applicable period of measurement, there are inherent challenges in measuring usage of our products across large online and mobile populations around the world."

It's the phrase "average revenue per user" that should catch the attention of advertisers. Should Facebook take into account the revenue per user when considering whether an account is active or not, that would mean there is an incentive for Facebook to effectively look the other way on the actual number of fake accounts (e.g. bots) as long as something is still contributing to the bottom line. The only question is, how much? And how much is it costing advertisers?

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