Posted on | March 31, 2012 | No Comments
Facebook sent out a message the other day on its new way of counting “check-ins” to improve accuracy. The result of the increased “accuracy” will be a drop in the number of check-ins. The message said:
“We are revising check-in numbers on Facebook Pages to give you a more accurate picture of how people are visiting your business. Among these changes, previously, if an individual checked into your business multiple times, each check-in was counted into your Page’s total check-in number. Now, if someone checks into your business multiple times within a 12-hour period, that action will be counted as one unique check-in.”
A check-in is when a Facebook user uses their mobile phone to tell their Facebook friends what business or place they are at, using Geographic Positioning System information.
To make an accurate count you need a clear definition. Try this simple experiment: ask a group of friends or colleagues to count the number of light bulbs in a room. They’ll immediately get hung up trying to decide whether to include florescent tubes, compact florescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, light emitting diodes and the dozens of other modern devices that emit light. If you don’t provide a definition and ask them to count anyway, you’ll get almost as many counts as there are people counting. The same applies to just about anything else, whether customers, inventory or complaints.
You can’t come up with a definition though, unless you have enough background information. If the reason for counting light bulbs is to keep enough spare bulbs and tubes on hand (and other devices that serve to illuminate the room), the definition—and thus the count—will probably be different than if the reason for the count is to determine whether incandescent bulbs have been removed to save energy.
With the new measure, a Facebook check-in is now something that can only be done once every 12 hours. Why not 24 hours or six hours or two hours?
The challenge with a count such as this is that you can only understand what it means if you know the definition. Such indicators are called instrumentalist indicators: they are not concerned with underlying truth or falsehood—such as the number of bulbs in a room—but merely practical value. Accuracy means something is close to the underlying “truth.” But what is the “truth” concerning something as vague as a “check-in?” In that sense Facebook’s new check-in measure may not be any more accurate, but it may be more practical than when people check-in more frequently than once every twelve hours.
© 2012 Greenbridge Management Inc.