Facebook Claims Ads Can Reach Non-Existent People

When creating an ad campaign on Facebook, you can use their system to choose which Facebook users you want to target with the advertisements. As you continue to make selections, the system will tell you how many potential people will be viewing your ad, which is a great tool for planning and evaluating any ad campaign.

Recently, however, there have been quite a few complaints that these numbers are significantly inflated. If someone said they wanted to target all users in the United States who are 18-24 years old, for example, Facebook is reporting that the ad can reach up to 41 million people. That’s great, except for one problem. According to the latest statistics available, there are only about 31 million people who fall into that category.

So, where is Facebook finding these extra 10 million people?

Facebook isn’t just making up numbers, but the numbers they have might not be all that accurate either. There are many things that can account for the discrepancy. First, Facebook will count anyone who is traveling to the United States in that age group (as long as Facebook can track their location). This would include vacationers, students, those here on work visas, and much more. These are all people who would not show up on US census data.

Still, it is hardly likely that this can account for such a big discrepancy. Facebook hasn’t (and isn’t likely going to) released the exact source of these numbers.

For many, this is just one more reason to be at least a little weary of Facebook and their ads. This is not to say they shouldn’t be used, but to blindly trust Facebook, or any ad network, is not wise either.

As with any ad network, being very careful about what you purchase, and carefully monitoring performance is very important.

What's your opinion?