While Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) stock has rallied during the past few days, the return for the year is actually 0%. This compares to Netflix, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:NFLX) 41% and Amazon.com, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) 23%. Even among the social media operators, FB stock has lagged in a big way.
The lackluster performance of FB stock is really more than just about the recent volatility in the markets. It’s important to keep in mind that the company has become the target of quite a bit of criticism lately.
Just consider the following:
- Sean Parker, the former president of FB, has noted that the social network “literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
- Roger McNamee, an early investor in FB stock, has said the brand is at risk of becoming “toxic.”
- Billionaire investor George Soros recently wrote a stinging post about FB and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL). According to him, these social media giants are too powerful – even Orwellian – and there will ultimately be a backlash, say with more regulation and taxes.
However, there is more than just dire warnings when it comes to FB stock. Keep in mind that there is evidence of fundamental issues emerging.
Warnings on FB Stock
Consider a recent report from eMarketer. It shows that FB is having a tough time with younger users. In fact, the study indicates that there was a 9.9% plunge last year (for those between the ages of 12 to 17), which was much worse the 3.4% drop the firm predicted during the summer.
And as for this year, there is likely to be further deterioration. The forecast is that there will be a 5.6% decline. Oh, and eMarketer is predicting a 5.8% decline for those between the ages of 18 to 24.
All in all, this is kind of scary stuff, right? Sure. But then again, it seems natural that Facebook’s core platform – which is 14 years old – should face deterioration. If anything, it is surprising that this hasn’t happened sooner! Hey, just look at the sudden declines in other consumer Internet juggernauts like Yahoo and AOL.
OK then, so what does this all mean for FB stock? Well, there are some important things to consider that should bolster the bull case.
First of all, FB has been smart to diversify. Back in 2012, the company shelled out $1 billion for Instagram – which, in hindsight, has turned out to be an incredible bargain. The property now has 800 million users. What’s more, about 59% of the users in the US are under 30.
But of course, FB has other key properties like WhatsApp and Messenger. Both have over 1 billion users and are still in the nascent stages of monetization.
Next, Zuckerberg has been rethinking his strategy with social media. That is, his personal challenge for 2018 is to tackle the darker aspects of FB, such as fake news and polarization. His initiatives include:
- Connections: The focus will be more on highlighting content from friends, family and groups.
- Quality: Facebook will surface content from reliable sources.
- Security: Zuckerberg plans to double the number of people who will monitor content, filtering out hate speech and fake news.
- Transparency: There will be higher standards on the disclosures and targeting of ads.
All these moves are certainly on the right track – and should enhance the long-term prospects of FB stock. For example, the marketing chief of Unilever plc (ADR) (NYSE:UL), Keith Weed, recently said his company would stop advertising on platforms like Facebook if actions are not taken to clean things up.
Bottom Line on Facebook Stock
While the criticisms of FB are legitimate, I still think things have been overblown. The fact is that the company’s platform is massive and a must-have for advertisers. There is also the advantage of an in depth database of behaviors, which allows for more effective ad campaigns.
Zuckerberg also has a proven record of dealing with wrenching changes as well as keeping up the robust growth rate. During the past year, revenues jumped by $40 billion. And yes, the company continues to generate substantial cash flows, which will allow for continued investments and M&A.
So in light of all this, the recent dip really does look like a good opportunity to pick-up shares in FB.
Tom Taulli is the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.