Is Facebook really worth +$100 billion?
That’s Facebook’s market capitalization, based on where the stock is priced for its upcoming IPO – currently scheduled for this Friday, May 18.
I’m no investment analyst, but here at WordStream, we are experts on online advertising. Facebook’s valuation of $100 billion puts it at half the worth of Google. Since both Google and Facebook generate most of their revenue through advertising (advertising accounts for 96% of Google’s revenue vs. 86% of Facebook’s), we can definitely weigh in on the worth question from an advertising perspective.
So we decided to do a comparative analysis of the world’s largest online display advertising networks: Facebook vs. the Google Display Network.
To be perfectly clear, we’re not comparing Google vs. Facebook as companies per se. Google is a search engine, and Facebook is a social network. This is a specific comparison of the display advertising capabilities of Facebook against only the display advertising component of Google’s business, which makes up roughly 20% of Google’s total advertising business. The Google Display Network allows advertisers to place contextual ads on a network of sites across the Internet (including Google properties like YouTube, Blogger and Gmail as well as over 2 million other participating sites), rather than in the search results.
So here’s what we found. Click the image to enlarge.
Facebook vs. Google Display Advertising: What We Found
For now, we believe that the Google Display Network (GDN) provides advertisers with significantly more value than Facebook advertising in terms of the five key areas outlined below. As yet, Facebook’s advertising platform hasn’t kept pace with the explosive growth of its social network.
We compared Facebook and GDN in these five advertising categories:
- Advertising Reach: Both companies have astounding reach. The GDN has more expansive reach (it has the ability to reach more unique people across the world), but Facebook has more pageviews (fewer people spend more time on Facebook, meaning it can hit the same people on the head more times with ads).
- Advertiser Adoption/ Growth Rates: Facebook’s advertising growth has been strong – but it hasn’t kept pace with growth in its user base.
- Ad Performance: Facebook ads have very low click-through rates (CTR) – at less than 0.05%, just half the industry average for banner ads. Why? It may be Facebook’s relatively slim offerings in terms of ad formats and targeting options, which are the key for driving ad relevancy and CTR. Google has industry-standard analytics tools, whereas Facebook is very thin in terms of reporting. Another possible explanation is intent – people may be less responsive to banner ads within a social network than when using other types of websites.
- Ad Targeting Options: Facebook doesn’t offer mobile advertising (a huge hole, especially with mobile use growing so fast), retargeting (or remarketing), advertising on partner sites, or keyword-based contextual targeting options for display ads. Google offers all of these.
- Ad Formats: Facebook has just two options: the standard Facebook ad (text plus an image) and a relatively new, sponsored stories. This is paltry compared to Google’s display network ad format options: text ads, image ads, flash-based image ads, in-video ads, as well as ads for mobile web and mobile games.
From an advertiser’s perspective, Facebook currently falls short in all five areas when compared to the Google Display Network.
To put it another way, Facebook (currently valued at half as much of Google’s entire business) offers advertisers less advertising value than what’s offered in the Google Display Network, which makes up just a quarter of Google’s total business, makes 3x more revenue than Facebook and is growing faster, too.
Will Facebook Live Up to its Promise?
Now, to be sure, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Google Display Network – it was originally called the Google Content Network and was for a long time considered painfully inferior to the Search Network by most AdWords advertisers. But the GDN has come a long way.
Given its impressive global reach, Facebook has the potential to be as much of an advertising behemoth as Google. But the question remains – does Mr. Zuckerberg even want Facebook to be an advertising-based company? In his 2,500+ word letter to shareholders, he only mentioned advertising once. He’s been quoted as saying:
Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected … Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.
I think Mr. Zuckerberg is in denial here – he wants to be this cool company that’s all about “connecting people,” but 85% of his revenue is driven from internet advertising. Advertising is his business model. The sooner he figures this out, the higher the chances that Facebook is actually worth +$100 billion.
For Facebook to prove its worth to shareholders, they need to change this nearly hostile attitude toward advertising. Mark Zuckerberg has said that he doesn’t want advertising to “ruin Facebook” – but it really doesn’t have to. They need to embrace advertising’s potential to build value for both advertisers and end users. This means helping businesses connect to the most relevant audience possible, deliver their message in more engaging ways, and manage and report on their advertisements more easily and completely.
Only then will Facebook be as much as it’s believed to be worth – we’re easily looking at 5+ years of work here, based on how long it took Google to get where they are today.
Will Facebook be able to deliver?