The future looks mobile for Facebook

Facebook mobile

Facebook posted its financial report on July 23 for the second quarter of its 2014 financial year.

The report shows financial pluses across the board for the mega social network in significant areas:

  1. Overall revenue for the second quarter of 2014 was $2.91 billion, an increase of 61 percent compared to the same period last year.
  2. Revenue from advertising was $2.68 billion, a 67 percent increase over the same quarter last year – and around 92 percent of overall revenue reported for the second quarter 2014.
  3. Mobile advertising revenue represented about 62 percent of advertising revenue for the second quarter of 2014, an increase of 41 percent compared to the same period last year.
  4. GAAP net income for Q2 2014 was $791 million, up 138 percent compared to the same period last year.
  5. GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.30, up 131 percent compared to the same period last year.

Holders of Facebook stock will no doubt be quite happy, like Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, who remarks drily:

“We had a good second quarter,” [Zuckerberg] said. “Our community has continued to grow, and we see a lot of opportunity ahead as we connect the rest of the world.”

What struck me most about the numbers as shown in the concise earnings announcement is the advertising revenue growth and the high proportion of that growth  – nearly two-thirds – that comes from mobile.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

Indeed, the FT reports on Facebook’s earnings with two interesting charts – the one above showing the growing shift to mobile of Facebook’s user base since the start of 2013; and the one below, showing a clear growth trend since mid 2012 of mobile advertising sales.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

As for the opportunity Zuckerberg refers to, to “connect the rest of the world,” put that in the context of the latest user metrics included in the company’s earnings report:

  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 829 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 19 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs were 654 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 39 percent year-over-year.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.32 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 14 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 1.07 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 31 percent year-over-year.

Plenty of room for growth.

(Picture at top via DigitalTrends.)

The meaning of 100 million Facebook likes

ShakiraColombian singer Shakira has set a new social media record after becoming the first person ever to reach 100 million likes on Facebook. The milestone has formally been recognized by Guinness World Records.

In its report, TheJournal.ie says that the only other page which has more likes than hers is Facebook’s own Facebook page. And 100 million likes has a sharp perspective when you consider it from a metrics point of view as The Wall Street Journal does:

[...] That’s 8% of Facebook’s universe of 1.28 billion monthly active users around the world.

The Journal also notes in its credible report that along with her Facebook fame comes spam, fakes and other headaches, undoubtedly needing an army of overseers to run the Shakira brand on Facebook (and elsewhere on the social web).

And Shakira herself – what does she think of this pinnacle of fan love? Guinness World Records reports her saying in a video message:

“I am honoured and humbled about reaching this milestone, because it’s one that’s purely about connecting with my fans from all parts of the globe. Social media and specifically Facebook has helped myself and other artists bridge the gap between the stage and the audience.  We’ve been able to create a conversation, where both artists and fans can share with one another their thoughts, achievements, the most important moments of their lives in photographs and videos, and have a real, ongoing dialogue.”

And Facebook?

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of Global Operations and Media Partnerships, said: “The combination of Shakira’s global appeal, her authentic engagement with fans and her use of Facebook as a multi-media platform has positioned her to achieve the incredible milestone of 100M fans.”

Creating a conversation, authentic engagement and a platform where those things happen. A powerful combination.

Take a look at Shakira’s Facebook page (that now shows well beyond 100 million likes).

Would you be happier without Facebook?

99 Days of Freedom

If you were not happy – outraged, even – with how Facebook behaved over the mood experiment they conducted last month, an experiment from a Dutch creative agency might be right up your street.

What Facebook did was manipulate information posted on nearly 700,000 users’ home pages that showed that the social network could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of emotional contagion.

Now Dutch creative agency Just has come up with 99 Days of Freedom, a call to action for Facebook users to demonstrate their disapproval of Facebook by switching off from the social network for 99 days.

[...It] asks users to refrain from Facebook use for a period of 99 consecutive days and report back on how the hiatus affects personal notions of happiness. The initiative’s website, 99daysoffreedom.com, provides a set of simple user instructions, which include posting a “time-off” image as a profile picture and starting a personalized, 99-day countdown clock. From there, participants are asked to complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66 and 99-day marks, with results posted to the initiative’s website as they’re compiled. The initiative will also host a message board through which participants can post anonymous accounts of how an extended break from Facebook is impacting their lives.

It’s a kind of mood experiment in reverse.

It’s also a cool initiative that gets Just a lot of attention for its imagination and creativity, as well as for the initiative itself. If it gets traction, it could focus considerable public attention on broad issues of online behaviours, manipulation of those behaviours by social networks, what companies do with our personal information, how we spend time online, etc – all hot topics today and great ones for ongoing public debate and discussion.

In its press release announcing 99 Days of Freedom, Just also talks about the amount of time people spend on Facebook:

[...] According to Facebook, its 1.2 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes per day on the site, reading updates, following links or browsing photos. Over a three-month period, that adds up to more than 28 hours which, the initiative’s creators contend, could be devoted to more emotionally fulfilling activities – learning a new skill, performing volunteer work or spending time (offline) with friends and family.

The subjective conclusion will appeal to many users, to be sure. My view is that many other users will be quite comfortable from an emotionally-fulfilling perspective – or any other one – with spending 28 hours on Facebook during any three-month period.

You could apply the same argument to Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… Horses for courses.

Still, 99 Days of Freedom is an interesting experiment and it will be equally interesting to see how it goes, how many people sign up to do it – 16,748 when I looked at the website just now – and what conclusions arise at the end of each person’s 99 days. I’d love to see a brand try it!

Give it a go?

Enjoy life!

 

Is your Facebook profile enough to prove your ID?

Facebook

One thing synonymous with air travel is declaring your identity, usually in the form of a passport or citizen ID card, depending on the country and other factors.

In some countries, you can manage just fine with a driving license (a de facto ID document in many places), residency permit for foreigners, or a multitude of means of proving your identity.

But would a social networking profile be an approved method of substantiating your identity? Facebook, for instance?

The Drum reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – the US government agency responsible for security at places like airports – has accepted sight of a traveller’s Facebook profile as an approved form of ID.

The news emerged after Twitter user @ZachKlein tweeted his experience on 22 December. [...] “Got to the airport, realized I left my ID at home. TSA allowed me to use my Facebook profile instead,” he tweeted.

According to the Drum’s report, the TSA says it will accept identification in lieu of other more traditional forms of ID from “publicly available databases.” And the TSA says this clearly on its website in the page entitled ‘Acceptable IDs‘:

We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home. Not having an ID does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly. If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases.

The web page doesn’t explicitly mention Facebook. But the question does arise – is this a new policy or just an individual decision by a TSA employee at one particular airport in how he or she interpreted the meaning of “publicly available databases”?

Another question is: what does it say about Facebook as a place of supposed privacy if a government agency sees it as a publicly-available database?

The possibility of using a social network profile for an ID purpose like this wouldn’t immediately occur to me. But when I think of it, I wonder: why not? If you set your profile to be visible publicly, doesn’t it qualify it as being on a “publicly available database”?

On the face of it, using digital information like a database of personal information to verify someone’s identity makes a lot of sense. It’s efficient, it doesn’t require you to carry bits of plastic or paper, undoubtedly it’s more cost effective, and more secure.

If you trust the end-to-end process of doing this, then it’s not a big step to imagine such digital information about you being used in many other areas where ID verification is required. Think of international air travel where a passport currently is an essential ID to show no matter what other form of ID you may have.

It’s also not hard to project that thought out to iris scanning or facial recognition as a way to verify ID, where no other form of ID is required. That’s not a new idea at all. Indeed, I remember making use of iris-scan recognition for entry to The Netherlands when I lived in Amsterdam a decade ago – no need to show a passport when arriving (or departing) on an international flight.

But all that’s the logic. The emotional aspect of it is a dark place given the absolute lack of trust many people have with regard to governments and personal information. Just ask Edward Snowden.

Still, if it helps makes air travel (for instance) a simpler, easier, safer and more pleasant experience, I like the idea.

I’d be willing to consider it. Would you?

It’s all love and hate with Facebook

Dislike

The thumbs-down symbol to register dislike of something on Facebook has long been a wish expressed by quite a few people.

That wish has come to fruition, sort of – there now is a dislike button but only as an add-on to Facebook Messenger, the social network’s text-chat service.

The fact that so many people talk about needing a method with which they can publicly voice their dislike of something in one click or tap illustrates one of the love-hate dilemmas that characterise what so many Facebook users think and say about Facebook.

Indeed, as one of the most popular online places for conversation, chat, gossip, you name it, Facebook itself is constantly the subject of much conversation.

How many users (1.19 billion ‘monthly actives’ at the last count), where they are (everywhere), what gender (mostly women, it seems), etc – all topics for much analysis, commentary and opinion.

And in the all-important area of Facebook demographics – something marketers and advertisers rely on in defining their audiences – all doesn’t seem to be well, with recent research suggesting that teenagers are deserting Facebook in droves because their parents are signing up in droves.

At least, teenagers in the UK according to research published last week.

In a study funded by the European Union, the Department of Anthropology at University College London is conducting ethnographic research in seven European countries to find out what teens think of Facebook. They just posted initial findings from their research in the UK.

[...] What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things. Instead, four new contenders for the crown have emerged: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

UCL’s UK findings have prompted much commentary and opinion across the media landscape, social and mainstream, nearly all of it basically saying the same thing: Facebook is not just on the slide, it’s dead and buried if a core demographic is moving on.

Wired magazine, on the other hand, has an intriguing and disagreeing view:

[...] all that really matters to [Facebook] is what happens after teens go off to college and enter “the real world.” How will they stay in touch with old friends and connect with new friends as they enter the crucial 18-to-25-year-old demographic in which lifestyle and purchasing habits are formed?

For the most part, this older demographic doesn’t turn to tools like Snapchat or Instagram to maintain long-term relationships. Those tools are great for conversing with your immediate social circle, especially when you still live with your parents and have to keep stuff on the down-low. But they’re not replacements for a comprehensive social tool you can tailor to all sorts of needs.

It’s a compelling assessment, one that will be part of a discussion in the next episode (736) of the FIR podcast, along with some views on the implications for business, that my co-host Shel Holtz and I will be recording later on Monday.

From the perspective of a Facebook user, I wonder what difference any of this will really make in the immediate-to-short term.

If you’re a teenager, well, I guess you’ll be moving on. Maybe that will be welcomed by users in older age groups. Boomers, for instance – that’s my demographic – who used to make up a huge percentage of Facebook users, driving its growth some years ago. Or maybe they’ve moved on to LinkedIn – the business network does seem to be evolving into a Facebook-like media business.

Neville Hobson joined Facebook
April 2007 seems such a long time ago…

A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m one of those. Even though I signed up for Facebook in April 2007, it’s the social networking site on which I’m least active, preferring Twitter and Google+.

In 2010, I toyed with the idea of quitting Facebook altogether, eventually deciding not to. It’s something my social networking friend Paul Sutton is currently mulling over on Facebook, and one I increasing see more and more people asking themselves, thinking out loud.

Looking back, I think staying on Facebook was the best decision for me: there are people there who I enjoy interacting with and who aren’t in other places. So I’m willing to ‘meet’ them on Facebook from time to time. Plus from my business perspective, a great deal of activity of interest to me that companies and brands do is on Facebook; to see it, you need to be a member.

But mostly, Facebook is a remote network for me. I’m not there much; the majority of status updates are auto-posts from blogs, Twitter, Flipboard, Instagram and other services that can automatically post your content to Facebook.

In a similar principal to engaging with people on Facebook who aren’t elsewhere, such auto-presence enables my Facebook friends to keep up to speed with what’s going on in my (mostly professional) life without having to chat about it or be on Twitter, Google+, etc, if that’s not what they prefer.

And that suits a lot of people. It works for me, too.

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Do your due diligence before using someone else’s content online

bogart-casablanca

The Financial Times reports on an interesting legal dispute between British luxury fashion house Burberry and the estate of actor Humphrey Bogart that highlights the copyright minefield businesses can be faced with on using images online.

Burberry used a still from the final scene of the film Casablanca, showing Bogart in his iconic trenchcoat, in a Facebook timeline depicting the evolution of Burberry’s products and culture. Bogart’s estate said the use was without its permission and, in any case, Bogart preferred the rival Aquascutum brand.

While the FT says the legal dispute has been settled, its report illustrates the rocky path for the unwary when it comes to using third-party content, whether that’s images or any other digital medium.

I think it’s surprising that this case of Burberry actually got to a lawsuit. Or perhaps it does also illustrate the pitfalls if you think an image is safe to use and haven’t rigorously checked that, in fact, it is. And, as the FT notes in its report, of all the pictures in all the world, why did Burberry have to upload that one?

The matter of permissions and copyright came up earlier this year regarding Pinterest, the poster-child for easy copy-and-paste that lets anyone share any content online, whether that’s legal or not.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes have scrambled to create a presence of some type on Pinterest.

But as the Burberry example shows, businesses cannot afford to do any less than conduct due diligence in rigorous permission-seeking from the owner of intellectual property they want to use – whether it’s images or any other content and wherever they plan to use it – to ensure they don’t find their communication efforts undermined by a lawsuit.

[Later Footnote] After I published this post, it occurred to me that I had come up against the very pitfall of which I wrote, about seeking permission to use someone else’s content before using it. I refer to the Bogart image I’d used, taken from the photo stream in the Humphrey Bogart Estate page on Facebook.

Had I fallen into an easy trap? Just because a photo or image is posted on Facebook, it means it’s ok to just use it?

I think I had. Slap-on-forehead moment. It may well be that it’s ok to use that image the way I did, linking back to it. But that does not make it ok without being certain, ie, seeking permission first. I hadn’t done that.

So, I’ve replaced that image with the one you now see above, one that is in the public domain.

A pity, really, as the one I first used was a really great Bogart pic. Not a valid reason to use it without permission, though.

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