Monday morning started like all Monday’s do. With an unexpected piece of news that drastically alters the plans you have in place for the week. The culprit this Monday? The headline “Facebook loses 900 000 South African fans” on street poles, newspaper front pages, and across the interweb.  Articles on News24, and CityPress are examples of the story that actually got exposure on blogs and news portals around the world.

The report pulls data from a site called SocialBakers, a reputable Social Media analytics portal that has the ear of most South African brand managers and agencies. Their page analytics, pulling directly from Facebook’s insights API are great. The topic of the report however focused on total active users in South Africa, a figure that is determined via a series of assumptions and estimations, and not from Facebook directly.

Clients mailed us their concern, and the Twittersphere had a mild flurry of activity, with agencies and industry voices having their say. Technologist, author and CEO of WorldWideWorx, Arthur Goldstuck tweeted his view that the report was inaccurate, a view we were aligned with, albeit with less certainty as to why.

During the course of the day we made contact with our account managers at Facebook and SocialBakers, asking them to shed some light on the statistics. The following is an official response from Facebook.

“Thank you for the query, and we can confirm the report is inaccurate. We have taken a look at the figures and we are still showing strong growth in South Africa. We can’t share South Africa figures externally with press but we are now at more than 9.5M monthly actives of which more than 50% are on FB every single day. All of these metrics have been growing nicely over the last 6 months. 6 months ago for instance we had less than 9M monthly actives.

We also don’t share our user figures with Socialbakers. They come up with estimates and I assume they use our ads tool to estimate user numbers but these estimates are not always reliable. I am for instance not sure if they properly take mobile usage into account.”

So there you have it. Word from the horse’s mouth that Facebook usage is indeed healthy and growing in South Africa, with a user base that is in fact a lot larger than we anticipated. Looking at “ad reach” indicators on Facebooks ad marketplace seemingly only shows part of the landscape, a fact to keep in mind when visualising the scale of South African usage.

According to a comment on IOL, SocialBakers were not contacted for comment on the statistics, a scary indictment of the fact checking that went into the reporting. Indeed SocialBakers maintain the data has been misrepresented by the media. We await feedback from SocialBakers.

Thanks Monday. We’re going to get on with the week now.