Maybe this week, I should be writing about Pinterest or something, especially considering that, for the first time, I got a postcard in the mail from a national retailer urging me to “Follow them on Pinterest.” (It was Famous Footwear.)
But, no, I fear I must write about Facebook again, because marketing ecosystem, I have something to tell you:
It’s all your fault that the IPO has been such a downer!
You should be spending like crazy to be on this once-in-a-lifetime ad platform, and you’re not! And now the SEC is MAD!
OK. I’ll calm down now. I’m acting like someone who actually bought Facebook stock. In actuality, I’m someone who isn’t all that surprised at what she’s reading about what really happened to the Facebook IPO. My main source is Henry Blodget, the Business Insider chief who himself admits that right now he’s only dealing in scuttlebutt – but word on the street is that during the roadshow, Facebook’s underwriters were told that perhaps it would be wise to revise Facebook’s second quarter revenue estimates downward, an event that, in addition to falling into the unseemly world of selective disclosure, also “was highly unusual, if not unprecedented” for an Internet company about to go public.
The less-than-spectacular predictions for the second quarter come on the heels of what was, by my analysis in this column several weeks ago, an also unspectacular first quarter. The seasonal revenue dip that Facebook experienced may be common for run-of-the-mill companies, but not for early-stage, hot Internet companies. Given that close to 90% of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, this clearly means that, advertisers – I repeat -- it’s all your fault.
Oh, Wait. Sorry. Got that wrong.
Upon further review, it’s actually that, once again, the investors of the world – especially the small fry who weren’t privy to the second quarter revenue downgrades – don’t understand what’s really going on with Facebook’s advertising platform, and unless you follow the ins and outs of Facebook’s advertising – as any investor should – then you shouldn’t be investing in it. (Irony watch: isn’t it something that the very hoi polloi that were most likely to get burned on the Facebook IPO are the same people that have made Facebook the hottest Internet property on the planet?)
If investors had really been paying attention, they might have realized that, back in February, Facebook did a highly unusual thing for a company that’s about to IPO: it made some massive changes to its ad model. All of the sudden, for brands, it’s about building out the perfect Timeline – which is not something Facebook derives revenue from; and also about figuring out how to use the new Premium on Facebook tools that Facebook fans – and stockholders – are hoping will make gobs of money pour into the platform. In the long-run, they well may, since what things like Premium’s reach generator are really about is the realization that earned media is almost impossible to do successfully without some paid media to supplement it.
But, if you were expecting this transition to happen within the 10 weeks since Facebook announced this new way of deriving revenue from advertisers, let me also let you in on a hot dot-com called Kosmo that will deliver anything to your doorstep, for free, any time of the day or night.
And then there’s the mobile problem. As some of us said when Facebook’s S1 originally came out, this is potentially an Achilles Heel for the company. Facebook’s ad model for mobile is in its infancy, even as about half of its users access it from a mobile device at some point each month.
But there’s a larger story here beyond all of the details in this column, and that’s simply this: the rapid pace of technological change.
For years now, we’ve seen that consumers move faster than most businesses when it comes to embracing technology, and that pace is only getting faster. Facebook’s 900 million users have sprinted much faster than the platform’s ability to nail down its advertising model, and their embrace of mobile has far outstripped the entire advertising world’s ability to develop an ad model for it, Facebook included.
The good news for Facebook is that it’s not alone – except in one extremely salient fact: it has those 900 million users.