Facebook – Show Me The Money

Today, I present, for your delight and delectation, a piece from the Wall Street Journal, a regional newspaper with a reasonable circulation, entitled ‘Big Brands like Facebook But They Don’t Like To Pay’. I am not going to paraphrase or summarise the article so, lazy blog trotters, you’ll have to get all clickety wid it for yourselves.

So, to my mind, there a few key points to be dragged out of this, and you’ll forgive me for re-ordering them, but in the following sequence, they make more sense:

  • Facebook’s global revenues were ‘not as robust as I would have expected”, said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.
  • Facebook’s estimated market value, now in the neighborhood of $70 billion, is founded on the belief that companies will spend big to advertise on the site. Facebook’s revenues, which come largely from ads, were $1.6bn in the first half of this year, up $800m from a year earlier.
  • Facebook is expected to capture just 6.4% of total online ad spending this year, according to estimates by eMarketer.
  • EMarketer expects Facebook’s ad revenues to reach $2bn in the US, from 162 million unique users, according to comScore; Google is expected to earn $12.8bn in US ad revenue from 184.6 million unique US users, according to comScore.
  • The auto maker (Ford)……….said it spent less that 5% of its total online ad budget for the (Ford Focus) campaign on Facebook.
  • Martin Sorrell………..said Facebook works for brand building, but companies that use traditional advertising “are invading a social space. You have to be extremely careful”.
  • “You can give them money, and they can give you Likes,” said Mr Kelly (Scott Kelly, Ford’s head of digital marketing), “but the question is, what is the value of those Likes?”
  • “Likeonomics.” Rohit Bhargrava, SVP with WPP agency, Ogilvy.
  • Facebook says 96% of the top 100 US advertisers, as ranked by Ad Age, bought ads on the site in the past year. Of the world’s 100 largest companies, 61% have a presence on the seven-year old company, up from 54% last year, according to Burson Marsteller.
  • Sony Corp is shifting 30% of its traditional ad budget into social sites, including Facebook, for its Playstation console. Diageo, maker of Smirnoff and Guinness, committed in September to spending more than $10m on Facebook ads.

So, snorkellers all, I’m just throwin’ this out there:

  • Facebook’s immense valuation is based on its certainty that companies will spend big on ads. They’re not. Most of the ‘Book’s ad revenue comes from SMEs.
  • Ford used Facebook for its ‘viral’ possibilities – it spent a little and then pulled the spend once momentum had been achieved. Ford’s head of digital raises questions over value.
  • Martin Sorrell issues a warning against traditional advertising on Facebook and even Diageo (one of ‘Facebook’s recent successes’) is only committing $10m to Facebook ads – which is hardly the big bucks Facebook needs.
  • 61 of the world’s top 100 companies have a ‘presence’ on Facebook – define ‘presence’, please

I’m still looking for the Emperor’s underwear here.

My perception is that Facebook is finding it tough going monetising its undoubtedy enormous user base – and this is partly because savvy companies (Ford amongst them) realise that – whetever value there may be in using Facebook as a marketing and sales tool – it is not delivered through advertising on the site.

Facebook themselves are not helping their cause as David Fischer, VP of advertising and global operations for Facebook, has said that the company is “building our business for the long-term” – and turning down ads that compromise the user experience. In addition, Facebook ads are small – because of an early decision by Zuckerberg to keep the site uncluttered.

Sorry Facebook – you can’t have it both ways. You can either liberate the revenues and sell companies what they’ll pay for – or you can stick with your ideals, and never realise the potential that might (just might) justify the frankly obscene estimated market value that’s being bandied about.

My bet is that Zuckerberg will attempt to have his cake and eat it – and the rumoured float next year will be a car crash of epic proportions.

One thought on “Facebook – Show Me The Money

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