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Monthly Active Users MAU Definition and How the Indicator Is Used

Monthly Active Users MAU Definition and How the Indicator Is Used

Monthly Active Users (MAU): Definition and How the Indicator Is Used

Carla Tardi is a technical editor and digital content producer with 25+ years of experience at top-tier investment banks and money-management firms.

Cierra Murry is an expert in banking, credit cards, investing, loans, mortgages, and real estate. She is a banking consultant, loan signing agent, and arbitrator with more than 15 years of experience in financial analysis, underwriting, loan documentation, loan review, banking compliance, and credit risk management.

What Is Monthly Active Users (MAU)?

Monthly active users (MAU) is a key performance indicator (KPI) used by social networking and other companies to count the number of unique users who have visited a site within the past month. Websites generally recognize monthly active users via an identification number, email address, or username.

MAU helps measure an online business’s health and is the basis for calculating other website metrics. MAU is also useful when assessing a business’s marketing campaigns and gauging customers’ experiences. Investors pay attention to MAU when companies report it, as it can affect a social-media company’s stock price.

Key Takeaways

  • Monthly active users (MAU) track the number of unique users who visit a website or platform over some period.
  • It is used as a benchmark for determining the performance, growth, or popularity of online sites.
  • The problem with MAU is that companies do not use the exact parameters when calculating it.
  • There are no industry standards for defining key measurements like "user" and "active."
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Who Uses MAU and How?

All too often, companies do not use the same parameters when calculating MAU, and there are no industry standards for defining key metrics. For this reason, critics of MAU believe that the metric creates unfair comparisons among competitors. Others think MAU is useful only in combination with other qualifying metrics, and some wonder if it is relevant.

As a quantitative assessment, MAU tabulates the number of visitors; there is no component that accounts for the quality of a user’s experience. Some companies consider a user as someone who has accessed their site, while for others, a user is one who has created a log-in and password. In some cases, an active user must meet specific requirements defined by the company.

For example, Meta (META), formerly Facebook, defines a monthly active user (MAU) as a registered and logged-in user who has interacted with Facebook within the last 30 days as of the date of measurement. Meta also tracks daily active users (DAUs), who must meet the same requirements as MAUs but on a daily basis.

X (formerly Twitter), on the other hand, stopped tracking monthly active users before it was acquired by Elon Musk and renamed X Corp. Instead, it looked at what it called monetizable daily active usage or users, or mDAU. Twitter defined mDAU as people, organizations, or accounts "who logged in or were otherwise authenticated and accessed Twitter on any given day through twitter.com or Twitter applications that are able to show ads."

So, if Twitter’s MAU did not include the same engagement variables as Meta’s MAU, was the metric an apt comparison of the companies’ site usage?

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Limits of MAU

The absence of uniform standards for the components of MAU, and other metrics used to quantify trends in social media, creates a slippery playing field.

In 2015, Meta revised its definition of MAU, no longer counting people who were not active Facebook users but who shared content via another site integrated within the Facebook login.

Upon acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp, Meta made more adjustments to its user metrics. In 2022, it published plans to further change how they measure usage in its annual filing. The company has started using "Family" metrics that measure monthly and daily active people (MAP and DAP) across its family of platforms.

Family monthly active people increased Meta’s metric by 2% year-over-year compared to monthly active users. This is likely because it accounted for users across all its platforms.

The change appears necessary because Meta has users with multiple accounts on several linked platforms, making it difficult to estimate usage accurately using MAU. According to its annual filing, Meta had 2.96 billion Family DAP for December 2022, while there were 2.0 billion DAU for the same month. Family MAP averaged 3.73 billion that December, while MAU was 2.96. A clear distinction exists between measuring active people and active users—nearly one billion people’s usage is not captured if the company relies on MAU.

While Meta makes a strong case for retiring this metric, it is still a useful metric for smaller service platforms and companies with websites looking for engagement measurements.

What Is Considered an Active User?

An active user is someone who uses your service or product during a specific period. Each business can define "active" however they want, at least until industry standards are introduced.

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How Do You Calculate Monthly Active Users?

MAU is calculated by dividing the sum of each month’s unique users by 12. This is the average used by most businesses to report their MAU.

What Is MAU and DAU?

Monthly active users and daily active users are measurements used by companies that offer services or products for their customers to use. Each one reflects how many customers are using their services daily or monthly. Whether a user is active depends on the business’ definition.

The Bottom Line

Monthly average users is a metric social media platforms, websites, and businesses use to measure engagement. It is a useful metric for gauging the number of accounts using a service. But it has become somewhat dated for some service providers, especially as service centralization occurs throughout an industry.

Meta makes a strong case for retiring this metric. However, while the variations in user metrics can make it difficult to compare social media companies, it is still a useful metric for smaller service platforms and companies with websites looking for engagement measurements.

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