Now that the dust has settled following Facebook's Q2 earnings release, investors can once again focus on how Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) can continue its stellar run. In the few short trading days since CEO Mark Zuckerberg and team shared the good news, Facebook shareholders have enjoyed a well-earned jump in the share price.
And to think it was just two years ago, nearly to the day, that Facebook was still trying to shake off its botched IPO, and its stock price was hovering in the $20 a share range. But then Zuckerberg took the mobile training wheels off, getting Facebook off the desktop and into the hands of smartphone and tablet users everywhere. And its Facebook's success in mobile advertising that's gotten it where it is today, and will continue to be the driving force as it looks to the future.
Cutting the king down to size
Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) is the primary competitor for Facebook in online ads with $16 billion in Q2 revenues, of which 90% came from search and online advertising.
Specifically, mobile ads is where Facebook's bread is buttered, and it has taken several steps to begin chipping away at Google's dominant position. To be sure, catching Google in the race for mobile ad spend is going to be a long, uphill battle. But if the industry's expectations become reality – and last quarter proved Facebook is making strides – the race for mobile ads supremacy is going to become a war for the ages.
Google's dominant overall mobile ad market position, including the once untouchable mobile search revenues, are beginning to look vulnerable.
Two years ago Google owned an estimated 52.6% of all mobile ad revenues, while Facebook was a distant afterthought with a mere 5.4%. This year, it's expected that Google's share of the mobile advertising market will decline to 46.8%, even as Facebook's piece of the pie has revised upward by eMarketer, to an expected 22.3%.
Should the estimates prove correct, 2014 could see a more than 130% jump in Facebook's mobile ad revenue, to a whopping $7.28 billion. And that's expected to nearly double in just a couple of years. As for Google? With nearly $16 billion in quarterly revenue and $58.72 billion in cash equivalents as of last quarter, the search giant is hardly in shaking in it boots.
But Google's declining overall mobile ad share, and the continued drop in even mobile search revenues, could open the door just a little wider for Facebook. In 2012, Google owned 82.8% of mobile search ad revenues. This year, Google's share of mobile search is expected to be 65.7%, and the downward trend will continue. Search isn't Facebook's bailiwick, of course, but Google's steady decline does demonstrate it had better get its arms around mobile, and fast.
The road to mobile success
Mobile advertising spend already makes up 62% of Facebook's total ad revenues, and that upward trend will continue. But if you're a user, you haven't seen a significant increase in ad volume, so how is Facebook going to continue eating into Google's mobile market share? Several ways.
Last month, Facebook introduced new, bigger ads to provide customers with a larger, and more "creative canvas." Naturally, a bigger more creative canvas is going to cost more. Then there's all that data. Facebook loves information, and it knows how to use it to target ads of interest to its 1.32 billion monthly average users, or MAUs. That, too, means marketing departments will pay more.
In Facebook's recent earnings announcement, Zuckerberg mentioned building out Facebook's artificial intelligence capabilities, further improving its ad targeting. Along those same lines, Facebook's Unpublished Page Posts are an unmitigated smash hit. Only a year-old, unpublished posts allow marketers to target a select group of Facebook users without inundating the whole Facebook universe. This year, 50.1% of Facebook ads are of the unpublished variety, compared to only 2.9% in Q2 of 2013.
Final Foolish thoughts
Knocking a behemoth like Google off its mobile perch is no easy feat, nor will it happen overnight. But Facebook is well on its way to becoming a mobile force even the mighty search giant will have to reckon with. And that bodes well for Facebook shareholders for years to come.