Not long ago, the conventional wisdom seemed to be that Facebook was over the hill. That teenagers and other “cool kids” were no longer particularly interested in the world’s largest social network. Sure they still had accounts, but the real action was happening elsewhere, in Kik, or SnapChat, or even Instagram (which Facebook owns, but so what?).
Recently, though, the media narrative seems to have shifted. Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg are once again the subject of stories extolling the company’s growth, reach, and prospects, as well as the new technology in which it’s investing.
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Let’s take a quick look at five factors driving Facebook’s latest moment in the sun:
1. Great financials. If you ask me, Facebook’s mini run started with the release of quarterly results that simply crushed expectations. According to one analysis, “Facebook earnings beat or met every consensus estimate set by Wall Street.” Good numbers are always a nice place to start, and Facebook seems to be sitting pretty in that regard.
2. Weird Facebook. OK, I’ll admit I had never heard of this. But according to a New York Magazine story last week, “Facebook has transformed from the site where relatives post screenshots of chain emails to the one where some of the wildest, dumbest, funniest digital culture is being birthed.” (See “The Rise of Weird Facebook: How the World’s Biggest Social Network Became Cool Again—and Why It Matters.”)
Why? Because “Facebook is where everyone already is,” says the story’s author, Hudson Hongo adding that “for a variety of reasons, Facebook is the social network that’s currently best hitting the balance between freedom and accountability.”
3. Twitter is flailing. Contrast that to the current situation at Twitter, which recently saw its first decline in users and has many observers openly questioning its future. In fact, when asked in Berlin last week what he would do to save Twitter, Zuck hedged but compared the struggling service to Instagram, which he said was now bigger than Twitter: “We’ve executed the roadmap … in terms of giving people — public figures — the ability to produce great raw content of what’s going on in their lives and giving people the ability to connect with that.” The point is that Twitter’s stumbles make Facebook look better by comparison.
4. Virtual Reality. Whether or not it’s practical yet, VR is cool, and Facebook adeptly used the recent Mobile World Congress to present its leadership role in the technology via ownership of Oculus Rift. Zuckerberg acknowledged that he’s more interested in the software than the hardware, but that creepy picture of Zuck walking past hundreds of people lost in the worlds of their VR headsets got a lot of play last week. “We are betting that Virtual Reality is going to be an important technology,” he explained. “I am pretty confident about this.”
5. Mark Zuckerberg is a uniquely powerful founder/CEO. A recent Morning Consult survey ranked Zuckerberg atop a list of tech leaders in terms of favorable opinions with a 48% favorable rating. (Interestingly, only 32% of survey respondents were confident that Facebook would protect their confidential information (56% were not confident of that.)
Put it all together and right now is a very nice time for Facebook and Zuckerberg. There’s no telling how long such “perfect moments” will endure, of course, so let’s hope everyone at 1 Hacker Way is enjoying it while it lasts.