A year after a rough initial public offering that the market spurned for months, Facebook has successfully made the leap from computers to mobile, according to chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Facebook's ability to grow mobile revenue was one of the biggest concerns in the weeks leading up to its IPO last year, and the stock didn’t trade above its $38 US issue price until July of this year.
Sandberg, who joined Facebook in 2008 and is credited with making it profitable in 2010, spoke to CBC’s Amanda Lang about the growth potential of the company, the Facebook IPO and her relationship with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
'We start the week together, we end the week together, and we’ve developed an ability to not just know what each other’s going to say but finish each other’s sentences.' —Sheryl Sandberg on Mark Zuckerberg
The IPO itself was disrupted by a trading outage, and at one time share prices languished below $18, but Sandberg said the fact that by December more of Facebook's daily users accessed the site using mobile devices than with desktop computers was proof the critics were wrong.
"Look, mobile usage took off faster than anyone predicted. We all saw that it was growing," Sandberg said in an interview aired Wednesday on CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
"We had a great mobile product but our product wasn’t as good as it needed to be a year and a half ago, and Mark really led the charge to rebuild our mobile product as apps and get us into the position that we can be today."
It was Zuckerberg’s initiative that pushed Facebook onto mobile platforms, she said. By the second quarter of 2013, almost a third of the social networking company’s revenue came from mobile ads.
"We’ve made a really important and dramatic shift from being a primarily web-based company to a mobile-first company in our products and our revenue," Sandberg said.
Hired away from Google
Sandberg was vice-president of global sales at Google until Zuckerberg hired her away in 2008. She was hired for her skills at managing operations and is frequently credited with moving the company toward profitability. Her relationship with Zuckerberg is often seen to have boosted Facebook's synergy.
Sandberg said she and Zuckerberg have very different points of view, but they understand each other’s positions and have built a very close relationship.
"Mark and I have very complementary interests. You know he is a product engineer and he loves products, and he likes nothing better than to spend all day reviewing products with the engineers," she said.
"I’m not a product person. I certainly work in technical companies, but I run our sales and business development and you know, public policy and communications and the overall operation."
"We start the week together, we end the week together and we’ve developed an ability to not just know what each other’s going to say but finish each other’s sentences," she said.
Sandberg dismissed reports that people are drifting away from Facebook as they take up other social media. The figures alone say otherwise, she said.
User numbers keep climbing
"We’re now way past 1.15 billion users and, importantly, as we’ve grown, our usage is increasing, not decreasing. So if you look at Facebook when I joined, it was 70 million users, 50 per cent came back every day. and that’s a lot," she said.
The early adopters who move on to new technology continue to be active users, she said.
"So when we went public a year ago, we had 58 per cent of our users coming back every day. And today we have 60 per cent of our users coming back every day. So we are growing, people are using us more and I think we’re increasingly important as a part of people’s daily lives," Sandberg added.
Sandberg is also author of the controversial book, Lean In, about women in the workplace.
More of Lang's interview with Sandberg will run Thursday on The Lang & O'Leary Exchange.