For those of us in the media buying game, we know that there’s something a little bit fishy with the numbers. Over at the Sysomos blog, Director of Communications Mark Evans recently wrote “In Social Media, Numbers are Truly a Game” and referenced the Paris-based analytics company Semiocast who announced that Twitter now has 500 million users, and also that just 27% of account holders are actually active, putting the real audience of Twitter at around 170 million.
Last week it seemed the Toronto Twitterverse exploded in controversy with a brand new tool for identifying users with high percentages of purchased fake followers (interesting, but about as reliable as no tool at all) and many conversations turned to real people, “influencers”, bloggers and media owners whose Twitter images were beefed up, with a high percentage of fake and inactive followers on their accounts (and they were enjoying the results of beating out others for jobs, contracts and swag).
On Facebook, nearing 1 billion users, they’ve announced that in an attempt to clean up their numbers they will be shutting down 83 million “dupe” profile accounts of fakers, pets, babies and companies who set themselves up as a profiles (meant for real people only), before Pages were available or before they knew how to set up a Page. According to reports, Facebook is taking this very seriously: if your profile is shut down by Facebook for violating TOS, you won’t be allowed to open up another account without their permission.
If you’re a business manager and you think you’re “doing it right” or saving yourself money by running your business’ brand activities on Facebook through a profile, but don’t know how to make the change, you can easily transfer your profile picture and all your friends to a new Page through this migration link. Do it now, before it’s too late!
For the small segment of us who are media buyers, responsible for allocating the largest portion of brand advertising budgets to traditional, digital and social media outlets, these are some scary numbers. Before digital media existed, our TV buys were usually our largest investment and I remember (years ago) predicting the audience #s of new television shows so that I could negotiate discounts with my network reps. In our post-buy analysis (where we document for our client the “actual” audience impact achieved for our buys, after the fact, we often had to be within a 5% +/- range or face reprimands from our bosses (for not predicting audience impacts properly) and possibly even renegotiating contracts with vendors to avoid having to pay a penalty to our clients from our next year’s budgets.
Facebook hasn’t said the deleted profiles will come off their user numbers, which in theory could account for as much as 10% of advertising investments advertising being shown to fake accounts, in CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) and roadblocks (where you buy all the impressions on Facebook within a geographic region, for a day, for a lump sum price). Babies and pets are probably still being run by humans, so I’ll presume they see the ads purchased and I’ll give them that.
On Twitter the problem is probably far worse, since their new promoted accounts and promoted tweets (available as self-serve advertising to all business managers), may be targeting as much as 70% or more bots and inactive accounts. I presume that they have a way of filtering CPM buys to only show to active users, but surely the number of 500 million is impressive to many advertisers who wouldn’t have otherwise considered investing a portion of their ad budget in Twitter advertising or a Twitter community (which can cost just as much in human resources and support).
While Facebook advertising is generally overpriced and we know it (especially given their investment value these days), Twitter advertising could be dangerously gamed and a waste of both time and money resources. As much as I enjoy Twitter and have used it to connect with countless relevant professionals for my own business and for my clients, I just can’t say that I have any sense of security in their paid advertising options right now.