1.71 Billion Users on Facebook (as of Q2 2016)
1 Billion Users on WhatsApp
500 Million users on Instagram (as of May 2016)
Facebook (as an organization) has amassed an audience so great in a short 10-ish years, that they are going to get to a point of saturation. A point in which growth slows and shareholders squawk about long term valuation. According to Statista, Facebook earns roughly $13 per user in the US & Canada, however, roughly $4 per user Worldwide, with Asia/Pacific driving the lower average.
Since becoming a public company, Facebook has increasingly brought more revenue generation strategies to market. A few examples are bringing ads into the Timeline, adding remarketing, Facebook Audiences, and monetizing their other own assets, such as Instagram. Estimates show that Instagram will generate over $3 billion in advertising by the end of 2016 and since Facebook earned over $17 billion in 2015, up from roughly $10 billion in 2014, Instagram is a strong driver to keep that number growing.
With the recent announcement that Facebook’s WhatsApp will be sharing data with Facebook, this is the inevitable next step for Facebook finding a way to monetize the ‘pseudo’ non-monetized application. As of right now, WhatsApp is monetized by users who have been a member longer than 1 year, who are charged $1 a year. But without a timeline or right rail region for ads, it makes it difficult for Facebook to find a place for ads…. unless… they introduce a timeline or even place ads within messages.
This would allow Facebook to use similar methodologies for Messenger, which has been the platform Facebook has been innovating a great deal. Could they find a way to monetize yet another platform in Messenger with a similar methodology that they could use for WhatsApp? Chances are Messenger would be first, but this could allow them to grow beyond the Timelines.
With Ad Blockers (and Facebook’s public battle with them) all the rage and consumer adoption reportedly increasing, if Facebook is able to monetize messaging, the encryption could prevent Ad Blockers from getting in and could provide the advertising ‘safe haven.’
If this could work, it allows personalization and arms marketers with the targeting that makes Facebook Advertising so much more beneficial and could allow a one up over Google.