Facebook FB has had plenty to celebrate lately. It just turned 12, and in something of a birthday gift to itself, it reported stellar financial results for the fourth quarter two weeks ago.
It’s no wonder then that COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO Dave Wehner sounded upbeat during an on-stage interview at a Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday.
Growth, for the next three years, will come from Facebook and Instagram, Sandberg said, as the company focuses on connecting people and businesses, and on boosting the value of ads on the two platforms. Sandberg said the company can continue to grow its mammoth advertising business by making ads more relevant to users, constantly creating new, higher quality ad formats and by doing a better job of giving customers metrics that show ads are driving real results for their businesses. In the latest quarter, Facebook’s revenue grew a record 52% to $5.84 billion.
The next wave of growth, which will rev up over the next five years, will be fueled by Messenger, WhatsApp and search, Sandberg said.
“Those are new areas we are working on and think will really contribute to our growth,” Sandberg said, adding that artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 360 video will also become increasingly integrated with Facebook’s suite of apps and products.
During a wide-ranging conversation, Sandberg and Wehner discussed the shift to mobile, Facebook’s internal culture and the rise of live sharing.
The executives said Facebook’s front row seat on the shift to mobile is helping to guide the way it shapes its offerings. Businesses are still catching up to customers’ shift to mobile, Sandberg said, noting that one of Facebook’s biggest opportunities is to convert more small businesses into advertisers. Currently about 50 million businesses are on Facebook, but only more than 2 million advertise on the site.
“The certainty is the whole industry is shifting to mobile,” Wehner said, noting that Facebook will continue to expand its headcount to build out its mobile services. “We’re constantly innovating the core products. It’s going to be making sure we have more video capabilities, making sure they work the best way for advertisers.”
The strength of Facebook’s core ad business enables it to invest in longer-term initiatives like artificial intelligence and Oculus Rift. Wehner said 2016 will be a big investment year for the company.
Facebook’s internal culture can be defined in two parts, according to Sandberg: Its mission to connect the world; and how employees work together.
She said that Facebook works to instill a sense of mission among employees. She and CEO Mark Zuckerberg try to lead by example when it comes to demonstrate the purpose of Facebook: both are prolific users and continue to stretch what they’re willing to share on the site.
The company’s productivity can be attributed in large part to its anti-hierarchical structure, which helps teams focus on results and moving quickly, Sandberg said.
“We have no executive dining rooms,” Sandberg said. “We have no places where we wall off people.”
She noted that when Facebook recruits, it pays much more attention to what someone has “built and shipped” than their GPA.
“We put people in small teams and expect them to execute,” Sandberg said.
Facebook’s top executives also indicated that they plan to continue encroaching on the turf of its beleaguered rival, Twitter. While neither mentioned Twitter by name, they said sharing on the Internet and on Facebook will increasingly be centered on live, immersive experiences. Sandberg said the company’s recently launched live video-streaming product is doing well, and that simple, interesting ways to share live moments will become more important to the platform over time.