Facebook’s fake numbers problem

I have included this here because it has a direct import on the patient support organisations and charities that spend valuable dollars on Facebook.

Long-time back, I had toyed with the idea of doing a small advertising promotion for the blog. However, I was taken aback with the lack of clarity on the user metrics or the “bang-for-the-buck”. Digital advertising is ineffective. Most users have blogs (to push for authenticity) or are well known in their social (or academic circuits).

It is a pressing concern because most organisations disregard the blatant privacy violations that happen on this medium. Despite the glitzy claims from the pulpits, it is vital to understand why social networking isn’t the right medium to reach out to others.

In July 2018, Facebook had a taste of what might happen if user growth slowed. It declared that in the US and Canada no new users had been added in the previous quarter, while in Europe the number had fallen by 1m. Revenue was still growing but at a slower rate. Facebook’s share price fell 19 per cent, reducing the market value by $120bn — the worst single day loss in market value by any listed US company in history.

The company’s solution to the uncertainty around the numbers is to offer a “family” user account that bundles Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users together. However, this is likely to further reduce transparency.

Facebook is under wholesale attack by account fakers. Without detailed external, independent and real-time auditing, it is impossible for investors and advertisers to know how many users the social network really has. Facebook needs to open its user numbers to outside scrutiny. Until then, suspicions will deepen that the company’s share price and advertising rate card depend, in part, on bad data.

Here’s the problem in perspective:

What happens next is up to the buyer. Fake accounts can be used to boost follower numbers, which is useful for online influencers who are paid for plugging products or services. Purchasers may use bogus identities to spread disinformation or unsolicited commercial messages, content or requests.

It is a known issue, and the stakes are very high for those who swear by the social networks. Buying up followers is an open secret, and there are specialist companies that engage in the race to the bottom.

via Facebook’s fake numbers problem — Lex in depth | Financial Times