Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why Math and Reality Hurts Facebook

Every so often I go to the Facebook Stats Page to number crunch and see what is really going on. This blog and my previous one are littered with proof Facebook's hype is way beyond reality from the 33% drop in use per person per day since April 2010 to the fact that for every 2 Unique Active Users that log in each month only 1 will take an action (Status Update, Comment, Like). I see this lack of activity when I run a client's Brand Page. This client makes the most delicious gourmet ice cream sammies on earth and yet when I try to give them away to our 1700 Fans they aren't paying attention. If FREE Gourmet Ice Cream Sammies that people pay $5 each for and they buy a lot of them, can't get someone's attention what hope does a major brand selling something boring like Mac and Cheese or Chips have?

So I am interested here is the two key metrics Compete shows. Unique Monthly Visitors and Visits. Monthly visitors is not accounts. Per the Compete notes if I click on a link and it takes me to Facebook to view a photo or anything on their network I am considered a visitor. A visit is being active on the site not a log in. If I leave the site and I am inactive for 30 minutes they end my visit. And if I come back an hour later it is a new visit.

First I will say to get over half of the 250 Million US consumers over the age of 13 to visit your site once per month is very freaking impressive. But as Compete notes Facebook could buy a ton of digital ads that get people to click and this take them to Facebook to kind of game this system if they wanted. I am going to say they do not do this nor have too.

But the increase from 125mil to 137mil unique visitors is technically flat over the last year rising less than 1% per month. Definitely not a juggernaut in the US anymore and has probably peaked. And the 18% drop in visits in April from March? Curious about that.

But if I take the number of total visits last month and divide by unique visitors I get 23 per month per unique visitor. Which means on average each person visits 3 out of 4 days a month. That assumes one visit. This is something important people! Your visit ends if you are inactive for 30 minutes! So if I visit for 10 minutes and leave that is not a lot of time spent on Facebook. The average time per active account is down to 35 minutes per day from 55 minutes in April 2010 (from Facebook stats page).

What if one person visits four times a day = 120 in a month? That erases 5.2 two people!!!!!! If 22 Million people in the US got to Facebook 4 times a day for a whole month. Then that leaves ZERO visits for the other 115 million unique visitors.

My point being the number of people on Facebook each day is being grossly overstated by the Media, Social Media Agencies, and Social Media Guru's. This is possible because Facebook is coy and only now gives gross numbers like number of accounts vs real activity numbers. Whenever they give activity numbers it always is embarrassing so they try not too. Like each active user watching 0.5 Videos on Facebook per month is a huge failure even if 300 million videos viewed seems a lot. This allows the people looking to snow companies into thinking they can reach more people with Facebook than they really can. And reinforces why when I post a chance to win a FREE Ice Cream Sammie only 6 people participate out of 1700. The 1700 are real people and real accounts but they aren't on Facebook very much nor spending much time on the network. And that my friends is 100% factual.

Editors Note: Obviously with visits down 18% there were more visits per Unique Visitor per month in March 2011. It doesn't change the thesis here. What would be great to see is if May had a drop in uniques too. Then Goldman Sach's will buy Compete just to shut them down to protect their Facebook Investment!


  1. Great post. I'm going to link to this in a blog post I'm writing in the next few days on how easy it is to lie with big numbers. Will send you the link when it's up.


  2. Doug wow I am flattered. Thank you so much. Looking forward to what you write. I have a finance/sales background this stuff drives me crazy! LOL Cheers- Howie