(Originally posted on the MSN*Money website:)
While the social media network trumpets its 1 billion users, new research indicates about 100 million of them could be dogs, brands or even toasters.
While Facebook (FB +0.46%) is set to mark the one-year anniversary of its IPO, a startling new statistic calls into doubt the accuracy of its claim to more than 1 billion members.
Figures gathered by other companies and analyzed by eMarketer show that the company last year actually had only 889.3 million users who are people. Facebook, though, had claimed 1 billion members in 2012. So what are the other 100 million accounts?
Well, according to eMarketer, they’re mostly pets and brands. Basically, if your friend set up an account for her cat, Facebook’s counting Miss Snuggles as a member.
Some of those pets are media stars in their own rights, helped by the power of the “like” and “share” button. Take Boo, for instance.
Boo is quite honest about what he is. “My name is Boo. I am a dog. Life is good.” But even though he’s the star of a book called “Boo: The Life of the World’s Cutest Dog,” he’s never going to be human.
While some brands and pet celebrities like Boo may interest a few Facebook fans, it’s likely that the vast majority of the non-human Facebook profiles aren’t so appealing. Given that Facebook sells advertising based on its reach, some clients may not too happy about paying to market to all the toasters and pets hanging out on the service.
Meanwhile, media titan Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter to offer a dire warning to the social media network. While he didn’t specify which data he was referring to, there have been some publicized cracks in Facebook’s growth story. The service has recently shed 6 million U.S. users, the Guardian reported in April.
On Thursday, Murdoch wrote, “Look out Facebook! Hours spent participating per member dropping seriously. First really bad sign as seen by crappy MySpace years ago.”
Murdoch should know what the consequences are. His News Corp. (NWS +1.09%) bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005. Once the most visited social networking site, members started to drift away. In 2011, News Corp. sold the site for a reported $35 million.
Dogs on the Internet, indeed.