It was not that long ago when Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) fortunes rose and fell on its success as a social media platform.

Those days are long past as CEO Mark Zuckerberg has transformed his company into a diverse brand that owns much more than its core platform. Facebook still makes the bulk of its revenue -- $3.82 billion of just over $4 billion in the last quarter -- from advertising. Going forward, it should be able to increase that and diversify its revenue sources.

Some of Facebook's initiatives will monetize through allowing the sale of more ads and creating more inventory. Others will provide other revenue opportunities and help the company diversify its monetization sources.

A panel of Fools examined the company and looked at the most likely next steps in its revenue plan. Here are their thoughts and findings:

Adam Levy (More businesses on Messenger): With Instagram well on its way to becoming Facebook's second big moneymaker, Messenger looks like the next easy target. During Facebook's second-quarter earnings call, Zuckerberg indicated that the first step to monetizing Messenger is to get more businesses using the product. To that end, investors should watch for efforts from Facebook to move businesses toward Messenger.

We've already seen a few. Facebook is currently testing a program called Businesses on Messenger, which allows businesses to send information and interact with customers via Messenger. For example, shops can send receipts and tracking information or answer questions about products.

Additionally, the company recently added a new feature to Pages, which encourage customers to reach out via Messenger and businesses to respond using Messenger. Creating these organic interactions will make interacting with businesses on the platform feel natural. That way, when it comes time to monetize those interactions, it doesn't feel forced.

Finally, Facebook is pushing users to conduct more commerce activities through Messenger. It rolled out the ability to send money to friends, and it's currently testing a virtual assistant called M. M is capable of making reservations at restaurants and placing online orders. Making it possible for businesses to generate sales through Messenger should attract significant attention from Messenger.

It's just a matter of time now for Messenger to build up an arsenal of businesses using the platform. At that point, Facebook can flip the monetization switch and start generating yet another revenue stream -- probably around 2017.

Tim Brugger (WhatsApp): After generating a record $4 billion in revenue last quarter, questions surrounding how Facebook will continue its rapid growth were inevitable. In the immediate future, taking the wraps off Instagram and allowing for full-scale monetization of the popular site should provide an earnings boost. But in a world of "what you have done for me lately," it's prudent to consider beyond the here and now. And that's where the $19 billion check Facebook wrote for the fast-growing, mobile-messaging king WhatsApp enters the picture. 

Whatsapp

WhatsApp running on an iPhone. Source: WhatsApp

With each successive quarterly conference call, Zuckerberg is asked when WhatsApp will begin to generate revenue. The CEO has repeatedly said that his initial goal is to reach a billion monthly average users (MAUs) before he'll consider monetizing WhatsApp. Based on this month's user data, WhatsApp will likely hit the vaunted billion MAU mark this year. As it stands, WhatsApp already boasts 900 million MAUs, a 50% increase from last year at this time, and is trending upward.

The WhatsApp opportunity seems almost limitless, particularly when you consider Facebook's industry-leading user data-crunching capabilities. Facebook's ads consistently rank at the top for response rates, one of the most important metrics marketers consider when buying digital spots. It's the ability to target the right ad at the right time to the right person that makes Facebook a marketer's dream, and it will bring that same in-depth, user-profiling proficiency to monetizing WhatsApp.

With 900 million MAUs and counting, generating a return on Facebook's $19 billion WhatsApp investment appears imminent, and that should be music to investors' ears.

Daniel B. Kline (Become a long-form video platform): Facebook has already done some recent experimentation with streaming video and it's a logical growth area for the company. In addition to being a repository for short-form viral videos, the platform is also ideal to host full programs and then facilitate discussion of what people watched/are watching.

The social media site tested this recently by "broadcasting" the premiere episodes of HBO's Ballers and The Brink. This allowed the pay-TV platform to put its new shows in front of a much larger audience. That was also helped by Ballers star/executive producer Dwayne "The Rock"Johnson being able to push his new program to his nearly 50 million Facebook followers. That's a huge audience to leverage, which likely led to significant sampling and probably some of the star's fans signing up for HBO.
 
Facebook could do more of this, but it would be better off getting into the original video game on its own. That could mean creating programming or licensing shows for a digital window. 
 
The social aspect of Facebook make it easier to promote a new program airing. They also bring added value because not only will the social site capture users for the length of the show it is also likely to keep them on board to post about it. This turns fans into evangelists building viewers for the program while increasing time on site for Facebook users.
 
Long-form content has become a crowded space, but the social media leader has the eyeballs needed to create hits. It also has the ability to leverage the followings of the stars and producers of any long-form programming it airs to build awareness. That's a recipe for success and it's actually a cheaper way of doing business. The current TV model requires expensive advertising to build interest. Facebook could skip that and create hits simply by the power of its existing audience.
 
This, of course, opens up not just ad revenue for the company, but it also creates an opportunity to sell promotion to existing broadcasters. Facebook could have companies paying it to deliver exclusive content to its customers, keeping them on the social media site longer.
 
 

Adam Levy has no position in any stocks mentioned. Daniel Kline owns shares of Facebook. Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.