Meta Platforms (META -2.15%) surely hasn't had the ideal start to 2022. In early February, the social media giant delivered a weak fourth-quarter 2021 earnings report after experiencing its first-ever decline in daily active users on the Facebook platform. All around, growth to wrap up 2021 was patchy -- Apple's iOS privacy update, coupled with the company's transition to short-form video (Reels), continued to place pressure on its top line.

To add fuel to the fire, Snap warned investors earlier this week that the macroeconomic environment has worsened more than anticipated. As a result, the social media company is now likely to report revenue and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) metrics beneath the low end of its Q2 2022 guidance range. As expected, the news had a detrimental impact on other ad-driven companies, including Meta, as investors now fear we're facing a large-scale slowdown in digital advertising.

For Meta, a company that generates virtually all its revenue via advertising, this news is certainly not something investors should ignore. But down 46% year to date, is now an optimal time to buy Meta stock?

Group of friends looking at one another's smartphones.

Image source: Getty Images.

What's the deal with Meta's business?

After ending last year on a sour note, Meta rebounded nicely to open up 2022. The company's top line rose 7% year over year to $27.9 billion, and diluted earnings per share (EPS) receded 18% to $2.72, with both metrics finishing on par with Wall Street's expectations. The flatter growth continued, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated in the Q1 earnings call several obstacles Meta is currently facing.

Similar to his spiel to close out 2021, Zuckerberg pointed to the shift to Reels on Instagram, which currently monetizes more slowly than other segments, and Apple's iOS privacy changes, which negatively impact its core advertising business, as primary drivers of the slowdown. He also mentioned softness in e-commerce relative to pandemic levels and impacts from the Russo-Ukrainian war as meaningful headwinds.

As a result, analysts project revenue of $127.1 billion for fiscal 2022, representing 8% growth year over year, and EPS of $11.94, translating to a negative 13% growth from a year ago. Next year, however, Wall Street expects total sales to climb 17% to $148.2 billion and EPS to soar 18% to $14.09, highlighting investor optimism once comparable metrics normalize. While growth may be shaky in 2022 due to a string of near-term headwinds, the company's historically low valuation is hard to pass over.

Trading at just 13 times earnings, a steep discount to its five-year mean price-to-earnings multiple of 28, Meta stock appears handsomely valued for long-term investors today. While I'm still not completely sold on its metaverse transition, the company's $14.9 billion in cash and its debt-to-equity ratio of only 12% eliminate much of my negative attitude toward its money-losing Reality Labs business. The company's strong balance sheet and cash generation, combined with its wide moat of nearly two billion daily active users, should help Meta investors sleep well at night -- even in spite of its current growing pains.

A great time to buy

When most investors fall out of love with a stock, that's often the best time to buy. Today, Meta Platforms is facing a series of headwinds that could impair growth for the foreseeable future. That said, I believe many of these hurdles are short-term in nature and that Meta is poised for a sound recovery in the future.

Plus, the social media juggernaut enjoys an elite balance sheet and robust cash generation, which will continue to provide financial flexibility as it undergoes its metaverse transformation. Now trading at an all-time low valuation, it wouldn't be a bad idea to buy shares of the social media leader today.