The MAU of Facebook

by Josh Opinion on January 17, 2011

I’ve been exploring in detail the Facebook Inisights platform and what/how they report figures. One huge item I can not figure out is the definition of what exactly a monthly active user (MAU) is considered on Facebook Insights.

In this post on the Facebook developers forum, moderator Mike  Knoop writes the following in June 2010:

MAU is a summation of your daily count of unique users over 30 days. The best way to show this is on your applications insights page (linked above). Go there and tick the “last 30 days” box and the “past day” box for Active Users (engagement). If you expand the viewbar to see at least 30 days, and sum 30 day data points (the blue ones) you’ll get the MAU count on the 30th day.

(Note: Since that posting in the developers forum, The Next Web reported in September 2010 that the algorithm to quantify MAU had changed.)

Exporting data for 30 days from Insights gave me the following:

Day Daily Active Users Monthly Active Users
1 4 182
2 3 181
3 8 178
4 11 219
5 65 232
6 17 232
7 4 232
8 71 236
9 61 242
10 81 244
11 10 236
12 77 236
13 9 224
14 0 218
15 53 222
16 10 224
17 55 226
18 60 227
19 55 230
20 7 229
21 0 228
22 62 232
23 64 235
24 71 212
25 80 210
26 17 208
27 4 208
28 5 207
29 7 211
30 77 223
Total 1048

Facebook Monthly Active Users

So in this data set from one one of my pages, Daily Active Users is about 4.7x overstated compared to MAU.

Monthly Active User (MAU) Definition from Facebook

Trying to dig further, Facebook reports the following in the description for DAU and MAU after exporting the data and opening the spreadsheet:

Daily Active Users (DAU)

Daily 1 day, 7 day, and 30 day counts of users who have engaged with your Page, viewed your Page, or consumed content generated by your Page (Unique Users)

Monthly Active User (MAU)

Monthly 1 day, 7 day, and 30 day counts of users who have engaged with your Page, viewed your Page, or consumed content generated by your Page (Unique Users)

The only thing these definitions make me more clear on is that Facebook is counting unique visitors to a Facebook page. But if this is the case, how is the 30 day summation of DAU grossly larger than MAU? If by Facebook’s 30 day count under MAU, shouldn’t the sum of DAU equal MAU on Day 30?

Any insights on the true definition of Monthly Active User? Leave a comment below if you think you’ve figured it out.

  • http://twitter.com/danieljohnyoung Daniel Young

    How did you go with this? I am looking for a clear definition as well…

    • http://joshuaopinion.com Josh Opinion

      Hey Daniel, I am still confused as when i wrote this post. Anything you have found that brings about a clearer definition of MAU?

      • http://twitter.com/SmallsMeasures Elizabeth

        Hi All – I think we need to start by having a better understand of what “Unique” means in the metrics world. The original intent of it was to count actual people, and while it doesn’t 100% accurately do it, thinking of it in that way makes it simpler to understand.

        So for example, Martin – We can’t see the actual number of “people” (aka Unique Users) outside of the time frames they provide, because it is not a summation of any data they provide to us. They see, on their end, how many “people” are active during that time frame and report it to us.

        Josh -  We only use the term “Unique” when it relates to a time period. Dave explained it correctly above, but maybe a little further diving will help you out.

        I can’t look at your report and say there were 1,048 “daily active people” on the site — because those people could have, and probably do, visit multiple times over the reporting period. For example, I can visit your page each day over the past 30 days, and by adding those “Daily Active Visits” up – you’re counting me as 30 “people” which is incorrect. Now, if you were looking at the MAU — this should only show me as 1 person. So yes, you are correct in saying that over the past 30 days, each “person” comes to your page 4.7 times on average.

        If you notice the daily active users is in a chart view, this is okay because it’s showing you the number of “people” per day. Here’s a screen shot to help understand further.

        Hope this helps,
        Smalls

        • Dundee Rotary

          Does anyone know if a web crawler (search engine, e. g., Google, Bing) will score as a unique user?  If the system doing the counting looks at the IP address, and if the IP address of a web crawler is different from day to day, the results will be inflated.

  • Martinlundp

    I have the exact same concerns as you Josh.. has anyone found a clear definition and/or an explanation of this?

    • http://joshuaopinion.com Josh Opinion

      Hey Martin, I haven’t found a clear definition yet either… hopefully Facebook comes out with something more cohesive and definitive.

  • http://natts.com Dave Nattriss

    The sum of the 30 DAU figures is greater than the MAU for the same period because some users will have used the application more than once in the period (but in different DAU periods). Remember that MAU is unique users, not the count of usages, in the 30 day period.

    So as a very simple example, if I use an application on the 1st and the 30th days of a 30 day period, and you just use it on the 15th day of the period, and nobody else uses it at all, the sum of the DAUs would be 3, but the MAU would be 2.

    • http://joshuaopinion.com Josh Opinion

      Hey Dave, thanks for the comment.

      That is what I originally thought, but when you export the Facebook insights it states the DAU is for unique visitors as well. Perhaps a small but important typo? If DAU was a representation for total visits and MAU was unique, could there be some sort of loyalty or engagement metric that could be inferred by this relationship?

      • Martinlundp

        I’ve been researching a bit more and I actually agree with Dave. I think that the “(Unique Users)” is right cause the interaction is unique for 1 particular day, whereas MAU is for a 30 day period as Dave stated.

        In your example above you’ve got to consider the fact that in day 1 you have 4 unique users and 182 unique users in the previous 30 days (which we can’t see).
        Take a look at the absolute first day (the day you created the FB page) then you’ll see that DAU, WAU and MAU is the exact same.

        In your example I think you can use your DAU and MAU in Day 30 to see that in the previous 30 days every active user have visited you FB page 4,70 times. (1048/223) You can call it average frequency(?)

        However I can’t figure out how to get Unique AU in another period than 1/7/30 days. Eg. I would like to see the total unique active users in a 60 days period.. Think it’s very limited that you’ll have to stay within FB’s definitions.. Anybody have some ideas here?

        Furthermore do you guys know the exact difference between “Daily Logged-in page views (Unique Users)” vs “Daily Active Users”? It might be very simple :)

        /Martin

        • http://joshuaopinion.com Josh Opinion

          Hey Martin, the more I look into it the more I agree. I think DAU is unique where MAU might be total visitors. If that is the case, then can it be assumed from your statement that during the example I provided that a unique visitor is visiting the page 4.7 times per month?

          In terms of your situation in trying to find uniuque active users, I’ve had similar problems. Some pages I can go back months and get data while others I can only go back only a few months.

          For your question on daily logged in page views vs. unique users, could that be an indicator of search vs. those finding the page on the Facebook news feed. For example, if someone typed in the brand name on Google search and found the Facebook page while not logged in, versus someone seeing a promotion syndicated by a brand on Facebook and they click on the News Feed link and goes to the brand’s FB page to get more information.

  • Charles Patterson

    Hey, does anyone know the difference between active users & page views? Or, rather, why the difference between the two is so large – i.e., for the past week I’ve had 3561 active users, 408 total page views, 209 unique page views, 102 ‘interactions’ with the page (comment, like, post, etc.), and 105258 ‘impressions’…

    One would assume that with 3561 active users, I would at least recieve a similar number of page views?

    If anyone can offer further insight into these ‘insight’ metrics, it would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • http://Nickbmartin.com Nick Martin

      Hey Charles, The reason the difference is so large between active users and page views is because relatively few people return to your page after liking it or becoming a fan. Most of the interaction you have with your audience will be in the newsfeed which is where the MAU’s, interactions, and impressions take place.

  • Michael Bierman

    For what it is worth, here’s a great article on how to think of this problem. I for one think the measurement is counter-intuitive but apparently widespread!  http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/standard-metrics-revisited-6-daily-weekly-monthly-unique-visitors/

Previous post:

Next post: