Facebook stock hit the new low last Thursday after Q2 results were revealed. Also closely linked to Facebook, game-maker Zynga has lost over 40% of its value. These stock falls have raised feelings of déjà vu in investors of the merry days of the dot-com buble. Are we facing the sequel: Social-Media Bubble-Revenge of Stock Plummet?
I believe not, based on the following reasons:
What separates Facebook from the failed IT-bubble companies?
1. People: With the expection of the Great China Firewall, Facebook has conquered the world. Over 900 million users would make it the third biggest country in the world. Numbers are great, but over 500 million active users also prove that Facebook has become much more. It is incremental part of the behavior of the people and increasing number of people have developed Facebook a daily (even hourly or constant) habit. And we all know how hard the sticky habits are to break. Also we from the industry are naturally calculating Facebook profits all the time, but average user could not care about less how Facebook ad sales are going. Of course on the long run the financial performance and user satisfaction should be inseparable, but it is easier to tweak on your business model when you have the people already using your network than other way around.
2. Profits: Despite making loss in the latest quarter, the revenues of Facebook actually beat the industry estimates. Also Facebook has already been profitable many quarters before. This is a proof that their business model works, at least to some extend. That could be hardly said from many other failed Internet-companies.
3. Potential: Google has struggled with social: whether it is Google+ or making YouTube profitable. Apple has had Midas touch in everything… expect social. That is why they allegedly have talks with Twitter. Facebook has been the only company to really capitalize and succeed with social. This has made it as one of the key players in the battle of Internet domination (other participants in the ring: Apple, Google & Amazon).
So comparisons with the high-flying and crash-landing dotcom rockets to the new big blue are unjust. They pretty much had only potential, but neither the users nor the viable business model. Facebook is not a bubble, but that does not mean that it does not have certain serious challenges. The future success of Facebook lies in how it can solve the following issues:
1. Advertising revolution: The advertising model of Facebook is based on really traditional online media sales and the effectiveness has been questionable. Sometimes it feels that only drunk people click on the Facebook ads. The new ad units have been disappointing at best and almost disastrous at worst (ie. Facebook deals). Facebook has to find a way to get people to see and engage with ads when and where they want to actually see them. Google cracked this and it has been the core reason for its success. Until now Facebook has just poorly emulated Google with a mix of traditional display, with average results.
2. Going beyond advertising: The information of Facebook 900+ million users is a goldmine. There just should be a way to utilize it better. Currently the revenues beyond ad sales have been quite modest. This also raises the controversial question which Facebook has actively been avoiding. Could users pay for Facebook? And how much would they pay for it and for what elements? There is thin line between the effective utilization of user data and the utter exploitation of it. If you do the latter, the deliquate trust between the service and users has been ruined forever.
3. Mobile: Future of Internet is the Mobile. And Facebook damn well knows it, with over 500+ million mobile users. As smartphone will be the computer of the new generation, it needs more innovative and effective mobile solutions than just sponsored stories in mobile (although they have been performing above average). The rumoured Facebook phone is step to the right direction, but just one of the first steps into the mobile world.
“Facebook is not a bubble, but it has not reached its full potential either”