There was an interesting post in Forbes by columnist and author George Anders on February 10th that Facebook’s most popular hiring area is now sales and business development people, not engineers. Why he’s suprised now that the company is valued at $150 billion is frankly a suprise to me and I’ll explain why. Facebook is – at its core – a media business. Even though they live on Hacker Way they might as well live on Madison Ave or Broadway in New York.
He states with some suprise that “What Facebook craves these days is people who can sell” citing 170 open bus dev and sales positions on Facebook Careers page vs “97 more software engineers, another 78 infrastructure specialists, and 51 data/analytics experts” He further concludes that, “fast-growing Facebook has some openings in every section. But the demand for extra people is most intense in the time-tested world of sales.”
With all due respect Mr. Anders, this should be NO suprise at all. Here’s why:
- Facebook IS a media company. Technology drives its media business, but from a business perspective its a media company first and foremost.
- The growth of traffic is only important from a valuation perspective if it can be monetized. Otherwise you look like Wikipedia with tons of traffic and public requests for support to bail out the company as it can’t figure out how to make money. (This is fine unless you run afowl of government regulations like they just did in Finland) Both are media companies but Facebook figured it out. With Sheryl Sandberg at the helm with experience from Google’s monetization engine, the ship was redirected from just doing “cool stuff” to monetizing the amazing traffic and selling like crazy. Mobile advertising went from 0 to 45% of revenue in just a year. In October 2013, they widely rolled out Custom Audiences and have developed deep advertising and partner relationships with key brands, agencies and publishers.
- Major revenue growth with brands and agencies is still built on building and growing trust-based relationships. The day when ad sales are completely run by programmatic buying then this will change. In the meantime, humans need to convince other humans that huge investments in media are prudent, wise and worth trying. After the initial spends, growth is based on strategic deals laying the foundation for future growth (see my earlier post on this topic)
Facebook faced much early criticism about ignoring clients and telling them to go “read our blog”. Those days are past and Facebook needs to remain innovative and nimble so it can be a great media company without getting bloated and fighting irrelevancy like the big NY boys of TimeWarner and Viacom.
What do you think?
(Photo of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: by Robert Scoble Flickr/Creative Commons)