New ad figures from Facebook show that the platform reaches more people in the U.S. than census data shows. Google, Facebook, and other tech companies closely monitor their ad reach to potential customers as the data is later handed to advertisers.
Advertisers are interested in the exact number of people watching online ads to learn more about their viewing habits. According to Facebook, the ads on its platform can reach 41 million people aged 18 to 24 in the U.S. alone, which is a lot more than the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures – 31 million.
The gap for this age group is not generally known among advertisers, one Facebook executive wrote in a client note, but if ad agency executives knew about it, they’d probably resort to third party measurement services.
Facebook confirmed that its ad reach numbers do not match official estimates, but the gap was created by design since its data can only estimate how many viewers in a certain area can watch a certain ad campaign.
“[Our data] is not designed to match population or census estimates,”
Facebook said in a statement.
What’s more, Facebook bases its data on age groups on self-reports, so the data may not be entirely accurate. The social media giant also uses data gathered from mobile devices accessing its platform which may include tourists and other non-residents.
In January, around 5.6 million visitors arrived in the U.S., according to the most recent report from the Commerce Department.
Nevertheless, it is not the first time Facebook’s ad reach data is inflated. In 2016, Facebook had to issue an apology to advertisers for having skewed the time users spent watching online ads. The company admitted that it had counted even three seconds videos as “views”.
Last fall, Facebook released a service called Metrics FYI which offers corrections to its data.
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