The largest social network in the world – and to some people, the entire Internet – released its 2Q 2017 earnings. What’s new with the 800 pound gorilla in social media?
Facebook passed a milestone this quarter: 2 billion monthly active users. This is an astonishing feat: at no other time in history has any company ever convinced 2 billion people to do anything together. No nation has even close to that population.
Facebook’s Q2 growth came from the EU:
Facebook stopped publishing its mobile-only user data; we use predictive analytics to estimate the percentage of their mobile and mobile-only users based on the last 7 years of data and their current overall user base.
Facebook stopped reporting mobile users and mobile-only users in Q1 2017 for good reason: virtually all their users access the service at least part time from a mobile device, at 94.72% estimated mobile users:
Approximately 1.35 billion people access Facebook solely through a mobile device:
What’s also important is that this is the Facebook core platform. In their earnings reports, they note that these numbers do not count users of Instagram or WhatsApp.
As we’ve stated in the past, a Facebook strategy is a mobile strategy and vice-versa. There’s no point in attempting to disambiguate the two; they are virtually synonymous from the user’s perspective.
Facebook’s revenue snapped back sharply after the traditional Q1 decline.
In fact, Q2 was strongly than it should have been if they had followed the Q1 trend (which was their weakest Q1 on a percentage basis).
What Do These Results Mean?
Unlike our previous reports, it’s clear that the Facebook juggernaut is not only maintaining momentum, but may be accelerating – at the expense of networks like Snapchat. Facebook has done an admirable job of taking over the social media ecosystem, from photos to chat to video. Whether we like it or not, any social media campaign has to include at least some portion of Facebook (even if it’s just retargeting) to be complete.
What Else Is Coming from Facebook?
One of the most interesting remarks came from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook’s use of AI internally:
On the business side, we’re seeing a large shift in the way marketing works. In the first wave of marketing, people would buy ads in media they thought their customers might watch – like a TV show that had similar demographics. But they wouldn’t know who saw their ad. The internet gave people the power to target their messages at people who actually might be interested and to measure results much more precisely. That was a big improvement. And now AI is taking this a step further. Now you can put a creative message there, and AI can help you figure out who will be most interested in it. You don’t even need to target now because AI can do it more precisely and better than we can manually. This makes the ads you see more relevant for you and more efficient for businesses.
This is an interesting peek at the future. For many marketers who lack strong data and analytics capabilities, advertising has always been a bit of a shotgun approach. Doing well sometimes was literal luck. Facebook is flagging that AI is intended to help marketers succeed by crunching the numbers and doing targeting far better than the marketers could.
This sort of AI targeting could significantly change how marketers and communicators use paid social media as well. What if we didn’t need to do much more than publish content and then point ads to it, and let the AI software figure out who needed to see it? Would we reach our existing audience more efficiently? Probably.
The real promise is that we might reach entirely new, different audiences that we’re not even talking to today, because we lack the analytics capabilities to find and address them. While these sorts of improvements aren’t available in-market now, based on Zuckerberg’s comments above, they may not be too far off in the future.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
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