No, X Isn’t ‘Shadow Boosting’ MrBeast’s Video, but It Is Still Amplifying Misleading Data Points

No, X is not juicing the numbers of MrBeast’s first video upload in the app by promoting it as an undisclosed ad. But it is still being dishonest in its measurements, and how it represents its data to the public.

This week, various X users reported that they were seeing MrBeast’s video in their stream with the usual ad disclosure options included in the three dots drop-down menu on the post, despite it not being designated as ‘Promoted’.

Many speculated that X was likely promoting this post to as many users as possible, in the hopes of boosting its view count, and thus, maximizing the monetization potential of the video, as it looks to entice the YouTube superstar to the app.

But X has clarified that the disclosure here actually relates to pre-roll ads in the clip, not the clip itself.

So it’s not “shadow boosting” the video, though I have no doubt that X is using every means at its disposal to push it out to as many people as it can, because a win for MrBeast would be a massive endorsement of its potential for other video creators.

Yet, at the same time, X continues to strain its credibility by providing misleading data, this time in relation to the MrBeast clip.

YouTube also counts views from logged out users and replays. Currently, you have to be a logged in user for views to count on X. So the reach here is actually larger. https://t.co/JPedLVtAgr

— Christopher Stanley (@cstanley) January 19, 2024

As you can see in this exchange, the Elon fanboy account “DogeDesigner” has shared the public post view count for the MrBeast clip, as a means to suggest that his video is getting more views on X. X employee Christopher Stanley has doubled down on this, noting that, actually, the view counts are even better than they look here, because YouTube counts other types of views that X does not.

But that is utterly misleading.

X’s post view count, which is the only one that the public can see, includes every time that a post is shown in a users’ feed, whether that user watches the clip or engages with the post or not. It’s not a video view count, which YouTube measures when a user watches 30 seconds of a clip.

So YouTube’s view count is actually far more indicative of actual interest, while X’s “view” measurement is the number of post impressions, which is far less meaningful (and far easier for X to game).

X knows this, and Stanley acknowledges such in the replies. Yet the X team insists on boosting misleading data like this, as it tries to give the impression that its platform is performing better than it is.

Which is misleading, and as noted, ultimately erodes confidence in every data point that it reports.

X owner Elon Musk is guilty of the same, regularly amplifying misleading data points like this:

The data quoted here refers to web traffic only, which accounts for around 20% of X’s traffic, and around 5% of IG’s overall usage. The vast majority of all social platform usage is in app, which is not tracked by external figures.

Elon, of course, is aware of this, yet even so, he’s still re-sharing this as if it’s actual indicative data, but really, you’re comparing a tiny fraction of X usage with an even smaller fraction of Instagram’s.

As such, it’s virtually meaningless, and there’s no way that X is even close to beating IG in overall usage. The fact that they promote this type of smoke-and-mirrors approach to their usage data only reduces trust in their numbers, as opposed to giving the false sense of value that they might hope.

But maybe, some smaller advertisers, whom X is now targeting, will be tricked. At the same time, it’s equally possible that maybe X’s performance is actually okay, but we don’t know, and we can’t know when they keep sharing data points like this.  

But then again, ultimately, the numbers here aren’t what matters, as it’ll make no difference how many users X actually has if no brands want to advertise in the app.

Many major brands are still hesitant to resume their X ad campaigns, and with Elon still sharing his every contentious thought on every divisive issue, the prospects of winning them back are not great.

Income from X premium subscriptions won’t save the company, and surely X reduce its headcount much further than it already has.

If it doesn’t start getting its ad business back on track soon, X could have a billion users, and it still won’t stop it from running at a significant loss.

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