The confusion appears to stem from the words Facebook uses in your News Feed to indicate when a user has clicked on an offer. Merely clicking on an offer -- but not redeeming it -- still indicates to a users' friends that they "claimed" an offer on Facebook, i.e. "Sam claimed an offer from Acme Products."
The problem is that a lot of people click on an offer and then decide they don't want it. That triggers the "claimed" message in your News Feed, and your friends are then prompted to see what offer you claimed by clicking on the same link. Those clicks also appear to generate the "claimed" message, even though none of the users may actually have signed up for the offer.
This image (above right, click to enlarge) is a screengrab of a recent test run by Business Insider of just such a scenario, in which neither the supposed claimant nor the friend viewing her News Feed redeemed Rosetta Stone's offer.
A Facebook spokesperson says:
There's only one action: "get offer" which claims the offer (like clipping a coupon). When a user clicks on and claims an offer, a story is shared. As with other status updates, a user can adjust the privacy of that story within the pop up and how it is shared on their timeline (public, friends, custom, only me, etc.). Whether the user takes the claimed offer to the store or website later to buy something and redeem the offer is not something that is shared on the user's timeline.
Part of the problem is, what language could Facebook use instead of "claimed"? "Checked out" implies an actual checkout in addition to mere browsing. And although a "claim" may not immediately be used, a coupon obtained through Facebook Offers could be redeemed weeks later.
A recent note to investors by Topeka Capital Markets analyst Victor Anthony cited Facebook Offers as part of his model forecasting a $40 target for Facebook stock. "This ad unit is extremely viral because when a user claims an offer it is broadcasted to their friends," he wrote at the time.
The issue is one of a string in which various Facebook features appear to overstate the popularity of events occurring on Facebook. We previously showed you how sending an URL in a Facebook message can generate two fake Likes, even when the message is critical of the web page. Some users have seen likes generated by friends who have died. Some advertisers have alleged Facebook charges for invalid clicks. And the company is currently engaged in a hunt-and-delete campaign against fake accounts and abusive users.
Disclosure: The author owns Facebook stock.
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