Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) reports earnings today after market close. While the results themselves will certainly be important, analysts and investors will be particularly curious to hear from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the live conference call following the earnings release. Here are a few topics investors will be hoping Zuckerberg will cover during the call.
How is video on Facebook panning out?
During Facebook's fourth-quarter 2014 earnings call, it was clear that management was very pleased with the opportunity in video. To get a sense of Facebook management's optimism concerning video, consider this excerpt from Faceook COO Sheryl Sandberg during the last earnings call.
... video grew dramatically on Facebook in 2014, especially around global events like the World Cup and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In just one year, the number of video posts per person on Facebook increased 75% globally and 94% in the U.S. Today, over 50% of people in the U.S. who come to Facebook daily watch at least one video per day. And globally, over 65% of Facebook views occur on mobile. Marketers have followed this trend and are using video to help people discover and learn about their brands.
During Q4, Facebook expanded its auto-play video ads to international markets. With auto-play video ads still relatively new and being rolled out slowly to users, it will be interesting to hear how well the ads are performing and how users like them.
Of course, investor interest in videos on Facebook will go beyond the specific auto-play format. More broadly, investors will be wondering if Facebook can continue to beef up its value proposition for video advertising enough to potentially tap into businesses' massive marketing budgets for TV advertising.
What's up with WhatsApp?
It's clear that messaging apps are here to stay and SMS is on its way out. This trend makes WhatsApp, the leader in Internet-based messaging, an interesting business -- no doubt. But is the messaging company worth the shocking $22 billion price tag Facebook put on the company when Zuckerberg & Co. acquired it?
Sure, most Facebook investors probably understand Zuckerberg didn't expect the investment to pay off in the near-term. Indeed, he emphasized the long-term mind-set for WhatsApp again during the company's most recent earnings call.
But it's really important to get this right and not rush it. What I'd say around messaging is we're pretty early in that cycle. We are about where Facebook was in around 2006 or 2007, where, at that point, Facebook is really just a consumer product. There were no businesses in the ecosystem. And a lot of people were telling us go put better ads in. And that felt wrong. I didn't think that that was going to be the right way to build the product or build the business.
But investors do eventually expect a return. Zuckerberg himself said during the last call that he expects WhatsApp to become an "indispensable" service and one of its "important contributors" to its business. Furhter, along with its acquisition of Oculus, Zuckerberg refers to these investments as "big bets on the next generation of communication and computing platforms."
While it's clear that WhatsApp use and engagement is high and its user base is growing rapidly, look for Zuckerberg to provide a bit more insight about Facebook's plan to turn WhatsApp to a meaningful contributor to Facebook's bottom line.
What about the ads outside of Facebook?
In 2014, Facebook began rolling out ways for Facebook advertisers to use user data to serve targeted ads outside of Facebook and its other digital properties (e.g., Instagram, WhatsApp). Pairing Facebook's relaunch of Atlas, which helps marketers reach users and measure engagement across multiple devices, and its Audience Network, which serves ads outside of Facebook, the social network has significantly expanded its advertising reach.
But as Sandberg emphasized during Facebook's Q4 call, the company's "Audience Network efforts are still pretty new." So, the company had little to share on that front. Look for more insight regarding Facebook's Audience Network during the company's first-quarter call.
For more on Facebook's upcoming earnings release, check out this earnings preview.
Tune into Facebook's live quarterly conference call today at 5:00 p.m. EST here.