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The Report that 85% of Facebook Users are Creating Content is a BS Statistic

on August 6, 2012

Just because a report or statistic lands in a credible news source, doesn’t mean you need to assume that the statistic has newsworthy merit. AdAge recently reported a study from Facebook that claimed that 85 percent of their users are creating content. If you read the details behind the number you soon discover that Facebook’s definition of “creating content” is any publicly publishable interaction on its site outside of check-ins. Anything that gets published onto Facebook is considered content. That could be as intricate as a feature film to just hitting the “Like” button. While that may be an accurate definition of content in the guise of social media, it’s not what we as humans think about when we want to consume content. Nobody says, “You have to count these ‘Like’ buttons I just saw here.” A ‘Like’ button is a measurable interaction. It’s not content people want to consume.

In addition, not only is the definition of “content” loose, but so is the window for which the content is being created. Facebook defined content creators as an individual having some type of public interaction with the site within an entire month, plus they only included Facebook’s active users. They didn’t include dormant accounts. Interacting with Facebook is using Facebook. Outside of just lurking (not posting, just viewing) or only using private communications, to just use Facebook you have to interact with it, which by Facebook’s definition is “creating content.”

What the headline should have read is “Facebook’s Definition of an Active User is Off By 15 Percent.”

Call “Foul” on BS Statistics

The Internet and social media allow for anyone to generate statistics. People love data as evidenced by the crazy popularity of Infographics. The concept of lying with statistics is not new. We’re just seeing it a lot now and when very credible people parrot these bullshit statistics (read: “Social Media Research is Chock Full of Leading Questions”) it just gives them legs. Don’t let this crap continue. When you see it happen, and especially if you see someone you trust and appreciate repeat it, point it out.

My complaint about this useless statistic just happens to be one of my rants from last night’s The BeanCast with Bob Knorpp (@TheBeanCast), a weekly show about the latest news in marketing and advertising. On the show with me were Karen Ebben, Director of Global Analytics and Competitive Intelligence at GM and Joseph Jaffe (@jaffejuice), President of Evol8tion.

Listen to my rant and other stories such as the value of the mobile shopper, social media as a research tool, an example of an effective direct mail campaign, and Facebook’s ‘Save for Later’ feature which I refer to as the ‘Save for Never’ feature.

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Creative Commons photo attribution to GOIABA.

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