back to article Facebook claims a third more users in the US than people who exist

Facebook promises advertisers access to more US customers than actually exist. That's according to an investment analyst who had long held that Facebook is misleading the market on what its actual digital reach is, and recommends a "sell" on the social media giant's stock. Facebook has an extensive and sophisticated ad-buying …

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  1. Colin Miller

    Dual accounts?

    FB may well have 41 million US 18-24 year old with accounts. Some folks may have two accounts, either from abandoning one (forgotten password, too much bullying on the first account).

    Or some folks may use two accounts. If you are a closeted LGBT person, you may one for your family who you are not out to, and a second one for your real persona.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dual accounts?

      either from abandoning one (forgotten password, too much bullying on the first account).

      I believe the Facebook claim (to the mugs that buy advertising) is that their numbers refer to "active" accounts. So in theory, there shouldn't be that many abandoned accounts. Practice, of course may be different, particularly when there's money to be made.

      But I have no sympathy with advertising buyers. They're supposedly adult enough and intelligent enough to know what they're buying, and what the real returns are to their company. I suspect most don't and are taken for a ride by Facebook, Google and others, but it is only a case of the biter bit. Obviously you and I are still paying if we buy from the companies advertising - but as a meany, I tend to avoid those expensive brands that do a lot of advertising.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Ledswinger Re: Dual accounts?

        i pulled a contract at FB a few years ago.

        I was forced to create a FB account.

        When I left, I 'deleted' the account, but in doing so, FB said that they will keep the account around just in case... So while dormant, its still 'active'.

        Then there are accounts like the one I use here. Pseudonyms that have never been associated to a FB account.

        But what happens when you visit a site that runs FB javascript code? And it captures data which is now tracking said pseudonym. Is that not an 'active user'?

        1. Mr Sceptical
          Thumb Down

          Re: @Ledswinger Dual accounts?

          Dunno about the rest of you but I block FB with Privacy Badger / No Script.

          That and utilising FB 'stealth' mode where I haven't used it in a decade....

          Simples.

      2. Philip Virgo

        Re: Dual accounts?

        And the most active accounts are those run by the Botnet Avatars said to account for between 25% and 80% of advertising clicks.- according to whose extrapolated hype you beleive.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Dual accounts?

      I have two Facebook accounts that I can't access, because Facebook decided I didn't exist & so wanted to "verify" me by texting a code to my cell phone. And since the accounts were opened years before using old cell numbers I didn't have access to at the time of Facebooks sudden need to "verify" me, there was no way to "verify" me according to them. (Email apparently was insufficient.) Once stuck in Facebooks logically flawed "verification" quagmire, Facebook has no mechanism to proceed since Facebook has zero customer service. This has happened to me twice over the years. My final solution is to simply point out to all of my friends & relatives that I've owned my own domain since the early 90's, and they can go there to see what I'm up to or to contact me.

      I know quite a few people in the same boat as me. So it's easy to see how Facebook could have more accounts than people.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Dual accounts?

        "Facebook has no mechanism to proceed since Facebook has zero customer service"

        What you mean is that it has no product service. You're not a customer.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Dual accounts?

          My wife, for example, created 5 accounts. None are actually used for anything anymore. In fact, she can't remember the last time she accessed FB ... probably seven or eight years ago. I'm absolutely certain that she's not the only person on the planet with multiple orphaned accounts.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dual accounts?

            The 25-35 group had a massive scale back in activity around that time, since that is around the time it went from basically only college age friends to being opened up to high school kids, then parents & grand-parents.

        2. fobobob

          Re: Dual accounts?

          "What you mean is that it has no product service. "

          It does, just not for the product.

    3. JLV Silver badge

      Re: Dual accounts?

      Tinder

      requires a FB account. But who wants to look like a lame-o by being seen to be on Tinder? No one, hence 2nd FB. Conveniently for FB demographics, age also tends to drop on those...

    4. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: Dual accounts?

      "FB may well have 41 million US 18-24 year old with accounts."

      Of course they don't. Having 41 million accounts created by US 18-24 years olds is *not* having 41 million 18-24 years olds with accounts.

      No idea what point you are trying to make other than the bleedingly obvious and completely irrelevant fact that people can and do create multiple accounts.

      Facebook claim to be able to reach more people in a target group than exist in that group, a claim which is obviously bullshit.

    5. big_D Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Dual accounts?

      And my ex-employer used dummy accounts to run its company page (even though this goes against Facebooks T&Cs). Instead of giving employees admin access to the page, they had to use a second account to manage the page, because paranoia.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I know several people with two accounts

      They have one for themselves and one for their business - doing stuff like hairstylist, realtor, etc. I can see why you'd want to keep your professional and personal separate if you're a realtor who is probably friend requested by half the people you work with. You don't want to consider them a friend and post your drunken vacation pics for them to see, but on the other hand you want them to feel like they are your friend because you want them to call you when they decide to trade up to another house in 5-10 years.

      I'm sure there are more of my friends that have two accounts that I don't know about. Maybe one has a separate account they use to keep in touch with grandma and the cousins, maybe another is a swinger or something like that and wants to keep those friends separate from their other friends, maybe one has an account just to harass an ex girlfriend he never got over. There's a million reasons people might do this, and I don't see how Facebook could ever stop it unless they required you to show an official government issued ID to them.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: I know several people with two accounts

        @DougS you set up a business page and administrate it separately, but it "has" to be linked to a "real" account.

        If it is a fake account or linked to a fake account, you could lose control of it, if they decide that the main account is fake and lock it / delete it.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: I know several people with two accounts

          Sounds like a good reason to avoid Facebook corporate accounts. Just look at the potential lawsuits - my employer required me to share all the intimate details of my social life with Facebook in violation of God knows how many human rights and data protection laws.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @big_D

          you set up a business page and administrate it separately, but it "has" to be linked to a "real" account.

          I'm not talking about pages for businesses, I'm talking about a second personal account so they can have separate friends lists. Sure, Facebook could cut one off if they figure it out, but given the number of 18-24 year old accounts versus the number of them there are, it is pretty obvious this is the rule rather than the exception and what I've observed is just the tip of the iceberg.

      2. rmason

        Re: I know several people with two accounts

        I'm 34.

        The vast majority of people I know run more than one entity on FB, be that a person profile or a page or group etc. The wife has bloody loads. Her own, a business page, a fake person account to run the business page so her name is never linked, we have a page to sell things (we are hobbyist breeders of a few exotic animals/reptiles) etc etc etc.

        I've posted above about groups of her mates who maintain multiple profiles each so they can game the sharing/requests thing that most games have inbuilt. One of each game they are currently playing, so their "real" facebook pages aren't full of all that "such and such gifted you this", "and "I passed level 904 and won two pleb-tokens" stuff.

        It's dead common.

    7. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Re: Dual accounts?

      Here in Thailand, most teens will have about 3 or 4 accounts per year. That's the turnover of their smartphones, the phone get crushed or trashed a way or another. Get a new phone, create a new account because they won't remember the previous one.

      Or the account was hacked because the password was the phone number.

      So there is no way to guess the number of users from the number of accounts.

    8. rmason

      Re: Dual accounts?

      Dual accounts is understating it.

      My wife's less intelligent friends are all constantly on FB playing games. They have special profiles just for the gaming so they don't constantly piss off regular users with all the game related requests which you need to send and acknowledge etc to get extra lives, or jewels or coins or whichever vacuous bullshit it is. I think that's very common. They're just engaged in a massive circle-jerk of sending each other requests that mutually benefits both parties in the game.

      People have them for pets, business profiles for their "sticking glitter on glasses business" or their "I can bake cupcakes" business.

      People have separate profiles for going in groups their partners wouldn't approve of, sleeping around, trolling or one of another hundred reasons. Then there's the kids. Hordes and hordes of kids both under, just on and just over the supposed minimum age. All of zero value to facebooks paying clients, the advertisers and the data-buyers.

      *Then* on top of all that you have the bots, fake profiles, like farms etc etc etc. It's probably quite a high percentage of *items* on facebook that have zero value for advertisers.

    9. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Dual accounts?

      If you are a closeted LGBT person, you may one for your family who you are not out to, and a second one for your real persona.

      Indeed, and then all the lesbian groups get plastered with ads from dating sites, match.com is the worst, pestering you to find a boyfriend.

    10. FuzzyWuzzys

      Re: Dual accounts?

      If you can find any 18-24 year olds still using Facebook, I'll be bloody surprised! I thought most kids had abandoned Facebook to we old foggies? My 14 year old daughter has no interest in Facebook or Twitter whatsoever, she prefers Snapchat, post it, laugh with her mates. 5 mins later ask them what the post was about and they've probably forgotten and don't care.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Diogenes

    Underage kids and perverts and leos

    Most of the kids in my year 7 classes have FB accounts, eventhough they are under 13. Then there are the fake accounts held by pervs to groom children and the fake accounrs set up by the police to catch saiid pervs. I suspect the underage kids could account for the much larger percentage.

  4. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

    Facebook demanded to know my age, and then plastered it all over the place on my birthday.

    So I changed my age to 100 years, as a sort-of 'None-Of-Your-Effin-Business' reaction.

    I tried to change it back after my birthday had passed (once they stop plastering it all over the place) but they then told me that I could only change it one more time. So I didn't.

    So now I'm 104.

    Facebook, meet 'Law of Unintended Consequences'.

    Idiots.

    1. frank ly

      Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

      Calm down or you'll have a heart attack or stroke at your age.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

        Only the queen only has 2 birthdays. Nobody has more than that.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

          "Only the queen only has 2 birthdays. Nobody has more than that."

          I've had over 70 already.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

            I've had over 70 already.

            Greedy bastard.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

              "Greedy bastard."

              Not at all. But the candles are getting to be a fire hazard.

          2. Esme

            Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

            I've had 78 and I'm 59.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

          Queen Margrethe II has two birthdays? News to me.

          I'd apologize for stepping on your insular prejudices, if I could be arsed.

          1. JimC

            Re: insular prejudices

            forums.theregister.co.UK

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: insular prejudices

              Has it escaped your attention that ElReg publishes to a global audience, from global offices? Do you actually think that an URL somehow designates a geographic location these days?

              1. staggers

                Re: insular prejudices

                Yes.

          2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

            Queen Margrethe II has two birthdays? News to me.

            I'd apologize for stepping on your insular prejudices, if I could be arsed.

            As he is English, and this is a site created and mainly based out of London, with a .co.uk address, his comment is perfectly justified.

            Just as if he was Danish, and the site was called "De Kirkebog", based out of Copenhagen, with a .de address, and he referred to "Margrethe II" as "the queen", he'd also be perfectly justified.

            A valid example of "insular prejudices" would be countries calling their internal games the "world series",

            HTH. HAND.

            https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2005/5/16/114579/-

            1. staggers

              Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

              I think the World Series was created by a newspaper of that name.

              BUT they seem happy to let everyone else think it means the whole planet.

              Or maybe they aren't aware of the confusion in the rest of the world!

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

                The newspaper story is apocryphal at best. In reality, it is just a traditional name left over from turn of the last century advertising hype. The only people who believe that Yanks think of it as truly a "World" series are folks from countries where American baseball isn't played.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

                  To be fair, I live in America and am astonished at how many TV commentators and general pundits refer to the winner of the so-called "World Series" as the world champions. I live part-time in Chicago, and when the Cubs won last year, I saw thousands of T-shirts and baseball caps being sold and worn that said "Cubs - World Champions". The same is true for the superbowl winner.

    2. Andy Non Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

      I used a fake date of birth and name. Only used facebook to participate in a few special interest hobbyist groups, not to share my life story. Their so called targetted advertising was hopeless. They bypassed my adblocker to show me drivel that wasn't the least bit relevant to me. One of their in-line posts was to pester me to do a review of a company I'd never had any dealings with. After a few weeks of this I gave them a review on their facebook page all right, just not one they were hoping for. They kicked up a stink with facebook and pleaded with me to remove my review as it was hurting their business. The final straw for me was when facebook kept pestering me to install their add-on for Firefox so I could receive notifications in my browser even when not having a facebook tab open. Every day I clicked "no" to the pestering and in the end I gave up and deleted my account. Can't say I miss facebook at all now.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: "They bypassed my adblocker"

        As well as something like uBlock origin as a generic ad-blocker, you really should use 'FB Purity' if you have to use Arsebook for any reason. On Chrome/Chromium you need to explicitly allow them for incognito mode if you usually use that to drop cookies, etc, on exit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'm also well over 100 years old on Facebook

          I have my birthdate info hidden though, so people never see when it is my birthday. Occasionally I see ads that are targeted at oldsters, which makes me laugh at how Facebook's advertisers are wasting their money on me!

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

      When idiots ask me my age for no good reason, I generally tell them that I was born on February 29th, 1904 (the actual birthday of a family friend). Probably doesn't do much as a protest, but it gets me past the computer gatekeeper and hopefully manages to corrupt a marketing database occasionally.

    4. Naselus

      Re: "...18 to 24-year-olds..."

      Yeah, I put my DOB in as like 1948. I got a lot of pro-Trump ads despite my generally left-leaning viewing habits and social groups, and despite having never set foot in the US in my life.

  5. Youngone

    No one cares

    Advertising has always struck me as something of a con.

    In a previous life I dealt with one of the huge multi national advertising agencies, and the vast amounts of money they raked in never really seemed to have any bearing on the results they produced.

    None of their customers seemed to care, as the long lunches were legendary.

    1. Naselus

      Re: No one cares

      It kind of is and kind of isn't.

      Advertizing definitely works. You can see the difference between a company that pays for advertizing and one that doesn't - say, Coca Cola vs whatever your local brand of shitty coke is. On the other hand, it's basically impossible to quantify how effective each advert actually is, or how the money spent on the ad translates into 'brand image'.

      Could Coke slash it's multi-billion dollar advertizing spend and still sell as much? Probably. The adverts long ago stopped having anything to do with the product, after all.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: No one cares

        "Coca Cola vs whatever your local brand of shitty coke is"

        To be fair advertising "shitty coke" wouldn't be a great move unless "shitty" meant something different to the English meaning in the local language.

        That doesn't alter the fact that the more I see Coca Cola advertised the less I want to buy it.

  6. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    WTF?

    Party like it's 1999

    Eyeballs! Eyeballs! Eyeballs! Eyeballs! Layoffs!

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: What Is The Point of Facebook ?

      There are people who genuinely use Facebook as an easy way to connect with people they don't see often. They say to all their contacts: "I'll be in LA next week, send me a message if you're there and want to meet". That feels to me the perfect usage, which is genuinely useful and cannot easily be replaced by another tool.

      Apart from that, I mostly see: jokes, links to articles, family pics, pictures showing how cool the user is since he's on a beach/in a bar/on a mountain, pictures of vaguely interesting sceneries (like a cloud).

      There are also people who treat is as a microblogging site, and post many times a day to give their opinion on some subject.

      Artists tend to post pictures of whatever they're working on, at different stages. That can be interesting.

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