Facebook must now grow into the promise the platform offers for the benefit of all.
There is no shortage of Facebook pontificating at the moment. Most of the coverage seems to reside in the hype cycle's trough of disillusionment about whether Facebook is worth the $100 billion-plus valuation it aims to achieve once it rings the NASDAQ bell from 1 Hacker Way. From the analysis of GM's curiously timed declaration that it would no longer buy paid media on the social platform, due to ineffectiveness, to the ongoing comparisons to Google's IPO, and the growing cries about a new tech bubble - everyone seems to be an armchair "Mad Money" contributor.
Something seemingly lost in the analysis is that Facebook is here, not entirely because it wants to be, but because it has to be. Whether or not Facebook is ready to be a public company (with Mark Zuckerberg bucking the "Wall Street Way" for his "Hacker Way" culture) has been rendered irrelevant. The Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory guidelines declare that Facebook must go public. Once "The Book" reached a threshold of private shares issued along with more than 500 private shareholders and requirement to file public financials, the die was cast and there was only one option - to become a publicly traded company.
By all accounts, Mark Zuckerberg is focused on one overarching objective: to maintain the Facebook mission. To be realized, that mission does not necessarily require advertising, and while Facebook understands the financial benefits, it has shown no more interest than Google did originally in evolving away from its core to be an advertising platform above all. But, it's still early days.
Back in 2004, when Google went public, the commentary focused on it being a one-trick pony. Everyone readily acknowledged that it was a really good trick, but people questioned where it would go from there. Almost a decade later, it's grown to become the most wide-reaching digital company ever seen. Facebook's advertising model is not what Google advanced in search, so what people have to trade on today is reach and scale more so than a fully realized and refined ad platform built on consumer insights.
In Facebook, we are looking at a rapidly maturing, but still not quite ready for the moment company. Forget for a second what GM has stated, or what analysts suggest and realize - that this moment is one that Facebook is experiencing because of the system as much as its own aspirations. That's not to say Facebook will never evolve to be the company it can be, but merely to acknowledge that for now, all comparisons and evaluations are done off a highly dynamic and changing platform.
The future state of media will most certainly be more mobile and the open graph on which Facebook resides will play a large role as well. What Facebook is really worth is as elusive as what a Facebook fan is worth to most brands today. But just like the extensive efforts brands and agencies are undertaking to quantify the worth of Facebook investments, the real value and offering from Facebook will be shaped over time.
For both brands and Facebook, the full realization of value is not yet here. However, this moment is, and Facebook must now grow into the promise the platform offers for the benefit of all.
Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next.
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