When Facebook goes public, its world will change. Even though Mark Zuckerberg has control of the company, the Street will weigh in, and investors and employees will be at the mercy of the share price. The CEO’s secure position at the top may ensure job security, but it can’t prevent a talent drain or investor flight. So, he’ll have to be ready with serious answers to difficult questions (or, Sheryl Sandberg will).
Here are five that are bound to come up:
1. When will mobile be ready?
Facebook has been slow to move on mobile. Its apps are weak, and its advertising product is virtually nonexistent. So, there are more than 400 mn users that Facebook has been unable to monetize. This has to change, and Zuck has to be ready to communicate how.
2. What’s the future of the on-site advertising product?
This is another week spot for the social media giant. Facebook’s advertising product is confining, and the moves to rich media have been slow. Facebook will need to show that it can get an advertiser-friendly product to market and sell it. This is a tall order to fill, and the company trails Google (big time).
3. Are there any non-advertising revenue streams in the works?
LinkedIn has shown the value of this, with premium accounts, data and other ways to spend money with the business-focused social media platform. Twitter, as well, got started licensing data, well before it turned to advertising. While this may not be Facebook’s answer, it needs to come up with one.
4. Is it developing an acquisition strategy?
This is another area where Facebook, historically, has been weak. Sure, it just spent a billion dollars on Instagram, but writing a big check for a small company won’t make Facebook a player. It needs to start targeting companies with complementary technology, preferably in the online advertising space.
5. Where will future growth come from?
Is Facebook betting on mobile and advertising enhancements to drive rapid and continued revenue growth after the IPO? Will there be other revenue streams? These questions are part of a bigger issue around Facebook’s strategic plan. The future will need to enable the development of existing revenue streams, the addition of new ones, increased engagement rates ahead of new user growth and a monstrous sales initiative to fill all new inventory.
And … let’s not forget succession planning
Right now, with his relationship with the product and full control of the company, investors are putting their money into Zuck. What happens if he gets hit by a bus, or suffers a family emergency? This isn’t a crucial point: Apple was long criticized for this and made the transition well, and Warren Buffett has been rebuffing calls for a successor for a decade. And, Zuck is far younger than they are. Yet, his role in the company is so fundamental, that a succession plan wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Photo: Stew Dean via Flickr