Does Facebook Have At Least One Profile For Every Teen in BC?

In the next couple of months, I’m giving three talks to different groups associated with post-secondary education. In preparing these speeches, I was doing research into Facebook’s market penetration among BC’s teens.

As you may know, Facebook’s advertising program lets you thin-slice your target audience in all sorts of interesting ways–gender, age, location even specific interests or workplaces. I created a query that indicated that I could reach 344,860 British Columbians between the age of 15 to 19. I take this to mean that there are 344,860 profiles matching that criteria on Facebook.

Curious to see what percentage of all BC teens this was, I checked the BC government’s stats for the current population of teens aged 15 to 19 in the province. They reported 287,444. I took screenshots of the two sources:

That means that there are 1.2 profiles on Facebook for every BC teen. Is that possible? Probably. After all, I recently read that 99% of the 2012 class at Amherst College had a Facebook profile. I suppose that if 20% of teens created two profiles, they’d generate these results.

And I remember reading some of danah boyd’s (lower case capitalization hers) research that indicates that teens discard unwanted profiles frequently, and often create several on a given social network.

In any case, isn’t this kind of false advertising from Facebook? The most teens an advertiser could possibly reach in BC is all of them: 287,444 in 2008, a few more in 2009.


  1. Given Facebook’s somewhat less rigorous vetting, could this be an indication of the magnitude of people that are saying they are in the 15-19 year old demographic, but really are not? I can think of at least 2 categories of Facebook users that might want to do so, one far less savory than the other…

  2. Very interesting. First though, I want to point out that the wavy equals sign on the FB screenshot means “approximately” so there may be some fudging of the numbers by rounding in those who have claimed they are attending a BC school or university (i.e. UVic, UBC or SFU) but are not originally from BC — this could bump the 18-19 yr old range considerably.

  3. @Jim That’s a good point–I should have considered it as a possibility. Maybe this number is a combination of multiple profiles and pretenders.

  4. This is a remote possibility but perhaps Facebook’s figure is all people who are actually 15-19 OR people who didn’t actually provide their birth year (since some of them are likely in that target demo)?

  5. Staggering stats! The 20% could be due to a number of things, such a statistical errors on the part of the government, improper age registration on Facebook, or people signing up from other regions and listing themselves in the BC network.

  6. Darren,
    I’m also wondering if some of these people are simply saying they are BC residents when in fact they are not but have some tie to the area and so give it as a location because it is where they are from or where they think of as home–students away at University somewhere else, for example. The analogy I guess I always consider is that of a local newspaper. At the papers I have worked for, you would be surprised how many people read on line or get it mailed and write letters to the editor as if they are members of the community even if they have lived away the majority of their lives. I’m not sure users are filling out this info with ad demographics in mind anyway. I often give my location as the Philly area, for example, even though I live an hour away.

  7. @Cheryl Good point about the wavy equals sign. That’s a pretty subtle way to say “approximately”, particularly when it’s followed by such a precise number. I wonder if there’s a net post-secondary immigration to BC?

    @Frank I didn’t mean to represent this disparity as earth-shattering, just notable in passing.

    @Shawn That’s a possibility, but wouldn’t it work the same both ways? That is, as many British Columbians would identify themselves as from elsewhere as others identified themselves as from BC.

  8. I have to say that the most astonishing thing is that a single website can have attracted what is almost certainly a majority, and perhaps a substantial plurality, of all the people in that age group.

    It’s one thing to say that “almost everyone” has email, but for almost everyone to have signed up to a service from a single company is probably unprecedented — even in the days of the BC Tel phone monopoly, I think.

    1. It’s shocking, isn’t it? Facebook indicates that a little more than one in four Canadians have accounts, but it’s surely at least 60% among those under, say, 30 years of age.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: