Facebook Posts Strong Revenue Result, Though Active Usage Growth is Slowing in Key Markets

Facebook just keeps on keeping on, with the platform reporting increases in both users and revenue in the first quarter of 2021, while it’s also maintained significant momentum in its ‘Other revenue’ category, largely driven by Oculus VR and Portal smart speaker sales.

First off, on users – Facebook’s Monthly Active User (MAU) count rose to 2.85 billion, up 10% year-over-year.

As you can see here, Facebook once again saw its biggest growth in the Asia Pacific region, which has been the case for the last six reporting periods.

Facebook is seeing particularly strong adoption in Indonesia, which is now Facebook’s third-largest user market, trailing India and the US. Indonesian Facebook usage has gone from 115 million actives in 2017 to 140 million today, while India also continues to see solid take-up as more of the nation gradually comes online.

Both regions represent significant opportunity for The Social Network, which is now investing in improved connectivity to get even more people in these nations onto its apps. Like India, Indonesia is still developing its digital ecosystem, which provides Facebook with a perfect opportunity to become the key connective tool, providing new tools and processes to 275 million+ Indonesian citizens as they look to new avenues online – which is also where Facebook’s increased investment in eCommerce and digital payments comes into further effect, providing more ways to facilitate more functions in users’ everyday processes.

This is how Facebook could become a transformative utility in these emerging markets, which is the company’s biggest growth opportunity at present.

In terms of daily actives, Facebook is now up 1.88 billion, up 8% YoY, and closing in on the next major milestone for the app.

Facebook Q1 2021 - DAU

You can see that the amount of daily active users as a percentage of total monthly actives has remained steady, which shows that despite various controversies and concerns, people are still logging onto Facebook at the same rate as they always have.

In many ways, Facebook has become a daily ritual – everyone logs in in the morning to see what their friends and family have posted, and stay up to date on birthdays, events, announcements, etc. In this sense, what would also be interesting to see is the amount of time people spend on Facebook, and how that’s changed over time – because while people may still be logging in, I suspect that they’re now spending more time in other apps, like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. 

Facebook doesn’t provide that insight – but it is interesting to note that despite mass bans on extremist groups, despite concerns around how Facebook is skewing people’s opinions, despite more and more people vowing to delete the app, that’s clearly not happening. At least not at a significant enough scale to impact the company’s overall numbers – though US and Canada region growth has remained largely flat, with Europe also now plateauing in DAU count.

The main concern on that front is that the North American region is still where Facebook generates most of its money, followed by Europe.

Facebook Q1 2021

While the Asia Pacific region represents future opportunity, the slowdown in these markets could spook investors.

At some stage, of course, Facebook usage has to flatten out, as take-up reaches peak, but the growth numbers here could also reflect those rising concerns as to the platform’s potential negative impacts.

Still, as you can also see, overall ARPU numbers are rising (YoY), which has also helped Facebook deliver a strong overall revenue result for the quarter – up 48% YoY.

Facebook Q1 2021

 As per Facebook:

“We are pleased with the strength of our advertising revenue growth in the first quarter of 2021, which was driven by a 30% year-over-year increase in the average price per ad and a 12% increase in the number of ads delivered. We expect that advertising revenue growth will continue to be primarily driven by price during the rest of 2021.”

That’s not great news for advertisers, with the cost of Facebook ads increasing. And if the impacts of Apple’s IDFA update go as expected, that will also see Facebook ad effectiveness reduced, which could further drive up ad costs.

The risk for Facebook is that this could also prompt advertisers to look to other platforms – but then again, all iOS apps at least will be impacted equally. In this sense, Facebook is likely in a good position to weather the effects, in the longer term, given the popularity of Android in regions outside western nations – but still, Facebook will likely take a short-term hit as the full IDFA impacts emerge.   

But then again, Facebook has the reach. Take a look at this ‘Family of Apps’ usage chart.

Facebook Q1 2021

The social behemoth is inching ever-closer to 3 billion total users every day. For context, the population of the entire world is around 7.7 billion, and half of them still have no access to the internet. That means that most of the 3.85 billion who can feasibly access Facebook every day, do, with more still being added, a truly mind-blowing stat. 

There are some additional provisos within that equation, of course, in terms of people with multiple accounts and how Facebook tracks such. But still, it’s crazy to think of how Facebook has become so ubiquitous in modern society.

The numbers also underline how Facebook can have such a huge impact on how people think, and act, especially in a political sense.

And then, as noted, there’s this:

Facebook Q1 2021

Facebook continues to see strong investment in its ‘Other’ revenue streams, primarily through increased sales of its Oculus VR headsets and Portal home speaker devices.

It’s still only a portion of Facebook’s overall revenue, but Facebook is increasingly become a hardware company too, which it’ll be looking to advance further with the arrival of its first Smart Glasses later this year.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted this growth in his official statement on the results:

“We had a strong quarter as we helped people stay connected and businesses grow. We will continue to invest aggressively to deliver new and meaningful experiences for years to come, including in newer areas like augmented and virtual reality, commerce, and the creator economy.” 

AR and VR will increasingly become key elements in Facebook’s future, while increased investment in eCommerce, and the ‘creator economy‘, as Zuckerberg notes, will help keep users coming back, and maintain Facebook’s apps as crucial utilities in everyday life.

Which is really where Facebook is now placed. Sure, other, newer, trending apps may get more hype – and Facebook will continue to chase them as a result. But the platform’s position in the modern interactive process is undeniable – and as the stats show, Facebook is a key connector in so many ways.

That reach, that capacity, will keep advertisers coming back, will keep Facebook connected, and will help guide the platform through to the next usage shifts.

Dread it, run from it, Facebook maintains all the same. And like Thanos, it increasingly seems ‘inevitable’, in terms of its ongoing presence.

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