Proving once again that I am an idiot, Facebook went public this morning with neither a whimper nor a bang. Back in January I predicted that Facebook godhead Mark Zuckerberg would implode during the company road show and the social media giant would back into becoming public simply by buying another company that’s already traded. From recent stories it looks like Zuckerberg did implode (blowing-off investors, hiding in the bathroom, etc.) but it didn’t matter: the deal was sealed long before any of that happened.
What’s next for Facebook of course, is fulfilling its promise as a public company. I still don’t think the company will ever be another Apple or even Microsoft, but there’s plenty of upside potential. Of course I mean the company’s new paid highlight feature.
At heart this is nothing more than the extras eBay sells for a dollar or two to make auction listings stand out only in this case applied to the crap we share with our Facebook friends (e.g. “I really mean this post, unlike most of the others”). This is an important source of incremental revenue for eBay, but for Facebook it can turbocharge the company.
To understand what I mean, look at Facebook’s business over the last four quarters during which it sold $3.7 billion in ads making up almost all of the company’s revenue. With 900+ million users that’s just over $4.00 in revenue per user per year. Pretty thin, which means the earnings impact of this new highlights feature will be especially fat.
It’s all profit for one thing. Though it must cost Facebook something to provide this feature the marginal cost per user is effectively nothing. If even a tenth of Facebook users highlight just two posts per year that would add 50 percent to Facebook’s revenue and increase profits by many times.
Ironically, the users of this feature will uniformly be the people who already over-use the service, publishing their every grunt and thought. Now they’ll just have a way to tell us which grunts they really mean.
Look for more of these tweaks over the next several quarters as Facebook gives Wall Street what it promised, which is earnings growth to support a rising share price. But understand that tweaks alone may not be enough with Facebook lacking a real mobile strategy.
Still, it must be a great day to be Mark Zuckerberg.