Facebook hasn’t forgotten its tagline of “move fast and break things," yet at the same time it's becoming a safe bet for investors. The company's shares climbed 2 percent in after-hours trading after the social networking giant's third-quarter report exceeded expectations on pulling in advertising revenue and attracting new and active users.
Facebook posted $4.5 billion in revenue, up 32 percent year over year and beating analysts’ expectations of $4.37 billion. Earnings per share were 57 cents. The site now claims 1.55 billion monthly active users, up from 1.49 billion in July and a 14 percent year-over-year bump. Facebook is also touting more impressive daily user numbers, hitting 1.01 billion daily active users, a 17 percent year-over-year increase.
“It’s a uniform beat. … The company can run its business well,” said Kim Forrest, a vice president and senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group. Still, Facebook has to prove it can continue to grow its ad base, currently at 2.5 million active. “As a professional, I’m very wary of it." Forrest said. "Are the natural advertisers in it for the long haul?”
Mobile ad sales drove the company’s revenue forward, as they have in recent quarters. The mobile business accounted for 78 percent of the $4.5 billion in revenue, up from 66 percent year over year, and beating last quarter’s numbers of 76 percent.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defined the success simply in the earnings’ report. “We had a good quarter and got a lot done,” Zuckerberg’s statement read.
Touting Big Numbers
Facebook has been working fast to cater for businesses, advertisers and its users. Over the last three months, the company released several new advertising and analytics tools that appeared to have helped pull in more ad dollars. Facebook also opened up photo-sharing app Instagram to all advertisers in September.
The network has more billions to boast. Facebook's new video pitch touts 8 billion daily video views. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook executives previously claimed more than 4 billion video views (defined as three seconds) in their new pitch for TV dollars. Messaging app WhatsApp has reached 900 million monthly users, adding 100 million over the last three months, and quickly approaching 1 billion, Zuckerberg noted.
Daily active users now surpass 1 billion, with 894 million on average via mobile. That growth in part is driven by Facebook's expansion in emerging markets, as the company tries to attract new users. More than 1 billion monthly active users come from Android devices. Facebook Lite, the company's lightweight app, now reaches 50 million monthly users, and the company has prioritized its growth in Africa and India.
"These results show how we’re getting stronger as a community and as a business," Zuckerberg said. "We need to continue innovating faster and invest in the long-term … to achieve a truly global reach over time.”
However, Facebook still lacks the ability to capture one of the largest regions: China. "That is a more complex situation. You can't have a strategy of trying to connect the world and leave out the biggest country," Zuckerberg said.
The network's stagnation there comes from the consumer-facing product being blocked. Yet, Zuckerberg noted that his company still does connect with China, and in fact, has pulls in some of its highest advertising spends from Chinese companies. The chief executive has also been working to learn the language.
And Big Investments
Facebook's newest tagline is "connecting the world," yet it follows several other companywide mandates on how the business should be run. One of its biggest shifts -- a mobile-first strategy -- has clearly paid off. Desktop ad revenue on Facebook is down 8 percent. Even so, the company is expected to increase it digital display advertising to 29.3 percent in 2015, up from 25.1 percent, while Google is expected to fall from 16.4 percent to 15.7 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.
“Facebook hasn’t been afraid to reinvent itself," said Tom Edwards, chief digital officer of agency business for marketing company Epsilon. "First it was all about acqusition and driving likes, and then it was engagement. Now, it’s reach, resonance and reaction.”
However, Facebook’s high spending has become a talking point for investors who fear that large initiatives could eat into profits. Indeed, several of the company's acquisitions -- WhatsApp and Oculus -- have yet to show off its money-making potential.
For some analysts, that's to be expected of a growing tech giant, not unlike the strategy of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. “You should not be surprised that they’re spending on things like virtual reality. That’s what it is at this stage. Shame on you,” Forrest said.
Zuckerberg was sure to highlight the company’s investments and dedication to the long haul. "We're focused on innovating and investing for the long term to serve our community and connect the entire world," he said in a statement.
He echoed his faith in Oculus and virtual reality as a long-term investment that will have larger-scale effects. Zuckerberg likened the research and development pace to that for mobile phones. “Virtual reality has the potential to be the next computing platform that changes all of our lives,” Zuckerberg said.
When asked by an investor about future content and Facebook's involvement in it, Zuckerberg pointed to gaming as an "obvious market."
This story has been updated to include comment and insight from the 5 p.m. EST investor's call.