Last Friday, the first Facebook lock-up period ended, and inside investors dumped their stock, including Peter Thiel, who made more than $1b in tax-free earnings. FB continues their losing streak, thereby earning the company the reputation of the second worst IPO performer after lock-up on record.
Numerous questions surrounding the future of Facebook as a public company are now being asked in advance of end of the second, and final, lock-up in November. How low will the stock go? Will Zuck be in? Or will he be forced out?
Yet, no one is really asking, “What happened?” Much less, “What efforts are being made to turn the perception of a sinking ship around?”
In order to get our heads around what is Facebook doing to stop the stock slide, the question, “Where did the technological wonder go wrong?” must first be addressed.
First of all, the leadership thinks like technologists and seemingly ignores the business side of the house. Technologists think in terms of data and the ‘cool factor’. In the initial launch of a product or service, this is great as it provides the ‘wow’ factor and, if successful, provides the ‘can’t live without it’ illusion. Technologists love open source and Facebook extended ‘open source’ to mean ‘open life,’ with little to no regard for their subscriber’s privacy and without a long-term business strategy.
Conversely, the shareholders are looking at the business side and asking, “The technology is cool, but it’s not making me money. With all the data they have, why can’t they tailor an effective ad solution?” not realizing there’s more to Facebook’s woes than coming up with advertisement solutions.
Facebook’s challenges go beyond creative advertisement delivery methods. They are so enamored with their ‘free technology’ that they ignore their critical stakeholders who are key to an effective ad strategy, the ‘service moochers’ who signed up for free social networking services on Facebook. Those moochers are the core customer base Facebook must keep in order to grow their advertiser base. They are the ignored stakeholders and, without them, any and all data driven social advertising ‘revolutions’ Facebook may have envisioned will continue to crash-and-burn while the stock ship continues to sink.
Another consideration that Facebook continually fails to factor in is, though their service may be offered up as free, is that many subscribers have become increasingly alarmed by the loss of privacy with each new roll-out. More users have become aware of the the blatant disagreed for Facebook’s own claims that the data is private, and have closed their accounts or simply stopped logging in. Those who maintain their accounts and new subscribers are wary of what Facebook may do next and may not be as active as they once were during the days of Farmville.
After years of being ignored, the moochers of Facebook also started to complain.
Privacy infringement complaints have become so commonplace that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) launched an investigation into the privacy standards of Facebook (and other social application providers) prior to the IPO launch. The investigation is now complete and the FTC determined that Facebook really did deceive users by advising that the user data remained private when, in fact, there was little privacy. No fines were imposed, but Facebook is forced to change their user consent agreements and is now subject to independent audits for the next 20 years to ensure user data remains private, per the agreement.
Facebook’s privacy lapses were also under review by the European Commission (EC). In fact, the numerous lapses by Facebook and other companies here in the U.S. (along with other nations), were extensively researched and used as examples of what not to do as the EC formulated their own internet and cloud services privacy recommendations that was handed down in a 50-page document and approved last month. As sovereign European nations begin to implement parts or all of the EC’s privacy recommendations, global companies like Facebook are in a mad-dash scramble to ensure full compliance or risk losing their off-shore customer base.
Another area that Facebook ignores is rolling-out ‘products’ the subscribers don’t want or like, yet are forced to accept them if they remain on the site. Timeline has not been well-received and let us not forget that everyone hated the forced Facebook e-mail address.
The continued loss of subscriber confidence and increased sovereign scrutiny will perpetuate a crisis in advertiser confidence as Facebook tries to meet shareholder expectations through advertisement revenue generation while being forced to do the right thing – protect your privacy and your data.
To top the public relations nightmare, early investor Peter Theil left the country, and months ago sold off over $1b shares after the first lock-up expiration (no taxes will be paid). Moreover, Zuckerberg's sister went to work for the competition, and the little technological glitch at NASDAQ could cost millions more in goodwill once the lawsuit against Citadel is settled.
It is important to note that most of Facebook’s woes existed long before the IPO launch and the SEC did outline underlying risks in investing in the company. Further, while on the floor right before ringing in the opening bell, Facebook’s founder made it implicitly clear that Facebook’s mission was not to be a public company. Rather, his vision all along has been, “to make the world more open and connected.”
As the hits keep coming, the public perception is Facebook is holding tight to its “No Rules” mantra and not doing a darn thing to stop the madness. But is this perception true?
In advance of a potential run on the stock after lock-up expiration, Facebook’s CFO, David Ebersman, met with current investors to provide assurance and persuade them to stay. Ebersman also met with potential new investors to assure them that Facebook is taking steps in the right direction and will be a solid investment in the long run. What was disclosed/discussed during the meeting is not open knowledge. What is known is Microsoft and Goldman Sachs re-affirmed their commitment and Zuckerberg’s alma mater, Harvard, committed to making a marginal investment in Facebook.
“No Rules” Facebook now finds themselves in the middle of a race to meet the rules and the complexion of the company is receiving a minor face lift.
Now that the Instagram purchase has cleared the UK’s anti-trust review, Facebook will soon begin integrating Instagram into their portfolio to help build the ad revenue machine (and, hopefully, network reliability).
To ensure their monetization strategy meets privacy standards, they’re looking for new legal talent including: Privacy Program Manager for both the EC and US; Head of Policy to manage the international privacy team; Privacy Counsel to advise on compliance across all aspects of global privacy laws including data protection and security; Litigation Council to navigate through potential class action suits involving unfair competition, securities, and privacy.
Facebook is also beefing up their small/medium business sales strategy and are looking for top talent including: Research Manager to research customer insights (this position does appear to be placed in an odd functional area); SMB Marketing Managers to expand their global marketing efforts; Multiple Sales Positions can be found around the globe. They also continue to look for top development talent as their company grows and product strategy changes.
With the worldwide economy slowing down (again), there will be some definite head winds as customers dial down the data usage or cut it all together. Yet, Facebook does appear to be making some positive moves in the right direction to create a bottom to their IPO losses.
Someone may want to share the hesitant good news with the nit over at Slate who seems to think that nationalizing the social network would be a great way ‘save’ Facebook so the U.S. government can mine your data for ‘research’ and ‘protection.’ I wonder if he’s asked the Chinese their thoughts on that brain fart?