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.
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.