Should You Buy What Facebook's Selling?
Oct 2nd 2012 10:12PM
Updated Oct 2nd 2012 10:22PM
It's about time. It was nearly six months ago the mess that was Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB ) IPO took place. After its less-than-auspicious beginning, perhaps it's not surprising Facebook did little to respond to repeated attacks from analysts and investors. When questions were raised about sustaining revenues, tapping into its unlimited user base, or addressing shortcomings in mobile computing, Facebook had little, if any, response. Facebook was like the kid cowering in the shadows, hiding from the neighborhood bully and hoping he'll move on and pick on someone else.
No more. There's been a subtle change over at Facebook, and you can see it in the slew of announcements this past week. From COO Sheryl Sandberg's recent stint on CNBC, to the proactive steps Facebook's taking to make itself a legitimate, long-term online contender, the gloves are coming off.
The week that was
An area of concern among many Facebook naysayers was its lack of a mobile strategy. The new feature announced last week that allows users to send and receive texts, along with Facebook messages, isn't a mobile computing panacea. But like the alignment with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) giving Android OS users the ability to sync photos and receive updates, these are proactive steps Facebook's taking to stay relevant.
The deal with Google comes on the heels of Facebook's move to make a messenger app available for users of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone. With the explosion in sales of the new iPhone, making it fast and easy for Apple mobile users is a necessity. Does this mean Facebook's ready for mobile primetime? Maybe not, but the tech team hasn't been sitting around the office just waiting for the next Nerf basketball game to get started, either.
And it's a good thing, too. The new Google+, Google's social-media service, is growing at a tremendous rate. With more than 400 million users, 100 million of which are "active," Google+ has become a favorite social-media advertising alternative of online marketing firms. About 55% of users rated Google+ a top-five spot, not bad when you consider it's all of about a year old.
Facebook still leads the way, with 87.7% of online marketing users placing it in the top five. But for the all-important user with a business profile page, the gap narrows considerably. Nearly 76% of those with business profiles rank Facebook the top online marketing dog, but Google's 63.8% results aren't far behind.
So maybe the timing of Sandberg's visit to CNBC on Monday was more than coincidence? No specifics were given, but Sandberg didn't mince words when discussing plans for generating business-related revenues, saying, "As we increase our investment in monetization, we're looking at premium services for businesses." Makes one wonder about branching out into LinkedIn's (Nasdaq: LNKD ) playing field. Obviously, the architecture is already in place, so what's to stop Facebook from combining its plans for generating business-related revenue with a professional networking service?
The statement from Sandberg might not seem like a big deal, but for Facebook it is. Until it went public, you got the feeling Mark Zuckerberg didn't care what people said or thought -- just leave him alone to geek out, and the rest would take care of itself. As a public company, Facebook owes it to shareholders and investors to share its business plans -- the more aggressively, the better.
Let's not forget e-commerce opportunities, either. Facebook Gifts, the recently announced service that allows users to forward goodies to friends and family, is just the tip of the online retail iceberg, according to Sandberg. With nearly a billion users, Facebook has e-commerce revenue possibilities that are almost limitless.
Finally, after meekly taking shot after shot, Facebook is starting to embrace the challenge of being a public company. The days of Facebook's refusal to stand up for itself are coming to an end, and that's great news for investors.
For a look at another opportunity that elicits strong opinions, you need look no further than Apple. After the recent iPhone release, finding information on the technology giant isn't a problem. Determining what information to actually pay attention to is more of a challenge. For a detailed look at the long-term risks, and potential rewards, investing in Apple presents, here's our premium report.