Three simple charts explain Facebook and WhatsApp

A lot of people seem mystified about Facebook’s $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp. For some folks, it’s about breaking free of an America-centric view of the Internet, as WhatsApp is larger than Twitter or LinkedIn by about 100 million members. For others, it’s not understanding why Facebook would spend that much. Here are three simple charts that should explain the logic of the deal from Facebook’s side.

First, let’s look at Facebook’s growth by region, in monthly active users.

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Facebook has tapped out the US/Canada and even the EU to a degree. When we convert this to growth rates in percentage change, we get:

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The declines shouldn’t fool you – Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are Facebook’s fastest growing regions, at double the US/Canada and the EU. That’s part one of the puzzle. Facebook needs to continue its growth in its strongest regions. Here’s part two.

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Facebook’s largest, fastest growing regions aren’t driving revenue the way the US, Canada, and the EU are. There’s a 3.5x gap between the US and the growth regions. If Facebook could fix its revenue problem in those regions, it could add another billion dollars or more of quarterly revenue. That’s why WhatsApp makes a lot of sense. It already charges users $1 per year. It’s got revenue that is diversified, that isn’t advertising-based. That makes it super appealing for Facebook, which is incredibly reliant on advertising dollars. A diversified revenue source in the fastest growing regions has the deal make total sense.

The logic from WhatsApp’s side shouldn’t need a lot of explaining.

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Forcing Facebook Page Engagement: An Experiment

With Facebook Page reach ever on the decline, I wanted to see if I could boost engagement without paying Facebook.

As an experiment, I changed all of the URLs in my weekly newsletter to redirect through my Facebook Page. The point of the experiment wasn’t to annoy my readers, of course, but to see if doing so changed the stats of the Facebook Page posts in any meaningful way. The premise was simple: get all of the clicks and views from the newsletter flowing through my Facebook Page to boost impressions and subsequent traffic-based metrics.

Let’s take a look at the data.

Average Facebook Page engagement numbers prior to the experiment

  • The average post impressions was 432 overall.
  • Of the posts that were subsequently featured in the newsletter, they averaged 439 views.
  • Of the posts that were not featured (the control group), they averaged 409 views.

So far, so good!

Microsoft Excel

Average Facebook Page engagement numbers after the experiment

  • For the exact same posts the week after being featured (forced through my newsletter), the overall average post impressions was 444, an increase on average of 11 more impressions the week after.
  • Of the posts that were featured in the newsletter, they averaged 451 impressions, an increase of 12.
  • Of the posts that were not featured in the newsletter, they averaged 419 impressions, an increase of 10.

The difference between number of impressions week over week for posts featured vs. not featured? 3.00% for featured posts, and 3.03% for non-featured posts. As a popular TV show would say, this hypothesis is busted. Making everyone jump through an additional hoop of clicking through a Facebook post did nothing for the numbers on Facebook and annoyed my readers. We can officially call this experiment a failure for my audience.

Does that mean you shouldn’t do it? It means that if you’re thinking about it, you need to run the test for yourself. Your audience may behave differently than mine, but be prepared for potentially lackluster results.


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In case you missed it, the Facebook algorithm

Facebook recently detailed an algorithm change to its News Feed, aiming at resurfacing older updates that it thinks are relevant, even if they’re not as fresh. It’s based on something simple: if Facebook registered that you never saw the item and it’d be an item that you’re statistically likely to engage with, it’ll bubble the item back into your “current” news.


Image source: Facebook

They specified 4 signals that indicate a News Feed item is important to you:

  • How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted
  • The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
  • How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post

Take note of the fact that the behavior of hiding a post is specifically called out, and it’s one of the metrics that’s now included in Facebook Insights for Pages. This is critical to the success of your Facebook Page! Go into your Page Insights, switch to Post view, and choose Post Hides, Hides of All Posts, Reports of Spam, Unlikes of Page by post.

(1) Christopher S. Penn

If you see anything other than zeroes, you need to retune your Facebook content strategy immediately because what any one Facebook fan does impacts what their friends see. Facebook clearly stated that what one person likes impacts what their friends in particular see bubbled up in their News Feeds. A hide is likely to not only impact the user that hides but also reduce the impact of that post among all of their friends.

This, by the way, is the answer to whether you’re posting too much on Facebook or posting the wrong kind of content. Anything that triggers a hide – cadence, content, etc. – is bad news and calls for an immediate reassessment of what you’re doing.


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