Facebook steams into its second decade in the week ahead, flush with record revenue and profit, an all-time-high stock price, 1.23 billion members and unbridled optimism.So what does it do for an encore?
“Add the next billion (users),” Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer and best-selling author, said in an interview with USA TODAY at Facebook headquarters here Friday. She mentioned Africa and Asia as fertile territory for the next wave of growth, which is sure to please advertisers who increasingly are buying space on the social-networking giant’s site.
A clearly pumped Sandberg, whose treatise on women in the workplace, Lean In, has sold more than 1.5 million copies, says she has no intentions of going anywhere — be it politics, as rumored, or as a CEO.
“I love my job. I love my partnership with Mark (Zuckerberg),” she said. “The idea of connecting the next billion users is really exciting.”
Sandberg’s infectious attitude is clearly imbued by Facebook’s announced earnings last week, in which it reported better-than-expected net income of $780 million on $2.6 billion in revenue for its fourth quarter. The news sent the company’s stock over $62 a share, giving it a market value of $154.7 billion.
For a company dismissed or derided by so many as a fad over the years, Facebook is clearly headed in the right direction. Its main source of revenue, advertising, soared 76%, to $2.34 billion, from the same quarter a year ago. And mobile, where industry heavyweights are betting the future, represented half of its total revenue. Some 945 million people use Facebook each month from a smartphone or tablet.
“Facebook has been successful because it is not afraid to change often,” says former chief technology officer Bret Taylor, who from 2009-2012 oversaw the rollout of Open Graph, a software platform for developers to write apps on Facebook; Facebook Camera; and the Like button.
Speed has been the axiom at Facebook. Zuckerberg doesn’t hesitate to shape the look of the popular service in a constantly evolving quest to gain more users who will spend even more time on the site. By contrast, the look and feel of Twitter has remained relatively stagnant.
“We knew we had something,” says Ezra Callahan, Facebook’s No. 6 employee, who is now in the hospitality industry in Los Angeles. “I remember when we passed 1 million users. To see where it is today, it was amazing to have been a part of it.”