Here’s a puzzle for music marketers to figure out: why, if there are only 31 million 18-24 year-olds in the US according to the country’s census data, does Facebook promise you it can reach 41 million 18-24 year-olds there?

An analyst from Pivotal Research asked exactly this question in a research note published earlier this week, and it’s sparked a wave of stories accusing Facebook of providing false reach metrics to advertisers.

An accusation serious enough to persuade the social network to respond publicly with its defence.

“It’s a challenge for us, as it’s being reported in the press as a metric error,” VP of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson told Business Insider. “It’s actually two different methodologies for collecting data. Our estimates are not meant to match census data.”

Critics will be snorting, but Facebook’s main argument is that its potential-reach stats are about “how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run” – which doesn’t necessarily match the population of that country.

Still, there’s been a drip-drip effect of stories questioning the trustworthiness of Facebook’s data – misreporting stats for average video view times for example – and this latest controversy won’t help.

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