Twitter Misleads. Bloggers Take the Bait. About that Facebook vs. Twitter Infographic…

Back in April I shared how Twitter was misleading the media and its users into thinking the numbers it was reporting were comparable to Facebook’s.  The deception stems from a report by Biz Stone at Twitter’s Chirp conference that Twitter has 105 million users.  It appears that in the last day or two many of the most popular tech blogs on the internet are taking the bait, including at least one blog that focuses specifically on Facebook, reporting an entirely inaccurate infographic, with absolutely no clarification in the matter.

The Infographic, created by Digital Surgeons, which is supposed to be a “Digital Marketing Agency”, boasts a whole bunch of figures based on a total user base of 500 million for Facebook, and 106 million for Twitter.  The problem is that Facebook doesn’t have 500 million total users.  According to Facebook’s own statistics, Facebook has “more than 500 million active users.”  For any agency in the know about Facebook (I argue if they’re making Infographics like this on such a huge statistic they aren’t), Facebook’s stats are a reflection of the total active user base and not total user base.  In fact, I was discussing with a (recently) former Facebook employee at one time how The LDS Church‘s FamilySearch.org has the largest database of online profile data in the world at 1 billion, and they suggested if Facebook counted their total user base (rather than active), Facebook’s number would be at closer to a billion users or more, not 500 million like Facebook is honestly sharing.

In SocialToo’s database I keep an ongoing cache of users based on the users we have and their friends.  That number, as of a few months ago, was a sample of about 5 million users.  Of those 5 million users on Twitter, only 30% of them had more than 20 status updates over the life of their account.  Assuming that statistic scales, that would mean Twitter’s number, as comparative in this diagram, should be closer to 30 million, not 100 million, making the entire premise of the graphic inaccurate.  Now, of course, I don’t have Twitter’s own numbers on me so I may be completely off, but I think it gives us an idea.  If Twitter’s numbers are bigger than mine, why not share them?

I sincerely hope this agency updates their infographic to a more correct number base – for something that is usually generated for mostly SEO purposes, it’s a pretty crummy thing to allow inaccurate numbers float around the web. Hopefully others can see through that (and bloggers do their own research), but mostly, I hope this agency notifies bloggers of their serious inaccuracy.  And lastly, I sincerely hope Twitter can be a little more honest with their numbers.  Listing “total users” when all your competitors are listing “active users” is a deceptive practice, and if you don’t have anything to hide, why not report the full number?  As long as Twitter isn’t you’re going to continue to see misleading infographics like this.  Then again, I’m sure that’s exactly what Twitter wants.

Here’s the infographic (note that I’m changing the title and file name to accurately report for SEO):

Digitalsurgeons Inaccurate Stats

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11 thoughts on “Twitter Misleads. Bloggers Take the Bait. About that Facebook vs. Twitter Infographic…

  1. Thanks for calling out the apples to oranges argument here, Jesse.

    On a related note, I think one argument Twitter likes to make is that it's hard for them to quantify all the followers who never create any information, just consume it. I haven't checked my feed for about 3 or 4 months, but when I was regularly checking it, I consumed solely. I haven't tweeted in almost a year (January 26, and that was from Facebook).

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  2. One cannot blame Twitter for reporting figures that reflect well upon them; in fact, Twitter's duty to its investors (similar to fiduciary duty at a public company) is to place the company in as good a light as possible, without being fraudulently misleading.

    The fault comes in those of us, bloggers and professional journalists alike, who are too quick to take a company's press releases and reprint them, or perhaps even misinterpret what a press release actually says.

    While Digital Surgeons gets the blame here, it's a reminder to all of us to be careful when citing figures. After all, only 10% of mistakes are intentional – the other 95% are inadvertent. 🙂

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  3. Definitely one of my pet peeves of sloppy reporting… the information consumer (the person who reads the post) takes it at face value and then spreads the false (fraudulent) information.

    I wrote a post about this about 18 months ago called Fake Metrics (http://jasonalba.com/2009/05/2…)… in it I share a post from TechCrunch that does it much better, as well as a great book (How to Lie With Statistics)….

    Thanks for bringing this up, Jesse 🙂

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  4. Thanks for calling out the apples to oranges argument here, Jesse.

    On a related note, I think one argument Twitter likes to make is that it's hard for them to quantify all the followers who never create any information, just consume it. I haven't checked my feed for about 3 or 4 months, but when I was regularly checking it, I consumed solely. I haven't tweeted in almost a year (January 26, and that was from Facebook).

    Like

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