Facebook's First Year Post-IPO: the Most Important Thing It Did

Friday, 17 May 2013 | 1:03 PM ET
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One year later, Facebook has figured out mobile, experts say.

The social networking giant may have had a rough patch after its IPO, but Facebook has quickly turned things around by cashing in on its users' obsession with mobile.

(Read More: Forget Facebook: Stocks, and IPOs, Are Just Fine )

"One of the big complaints at the company's IPO was that it doesn't make any money on mobile, and that was true and fair at the time," said Jason Stein, founder and president of the social media agency Laundry Service.

Facebook had zero revenue on its mobile-ad platform when it went public but posted $375 million on mobile in the first quarter, Stein said.

"It's amazing that a company was criticized for lacking any mobile presence was able to completely build a new app and monetize it as quickly as it was able to build it," Stein said.

(Read More: Facebook Shares One Year On—Time to Reconsider? )

Almost 70 percent of Facebook users are on the network's mobile platform, and about 30 percent of all ad revenue is generated via mobile—advertisers like that because they see huge growth opportunity, Stein said.

Eden Zoller, principal consumer analyst at Ovum, said its crucial that Facebook continue to expand into emerging markets.

"I think [ad revenue] will increase, and there's a real imperative for Facebook to continue that momentum," Zoller said. "More people are interacting with people on mobile phones, some of them on an exclusive basis. ... Facebook needs to ensure that the advertising dollars go with that migration."

(Read More: Facebook Makes Mobile Money, Though Earnings Miss by a Penny)

Mobile Is Facebook's Success Story: Expert
Eden Zoller, principal consumer analyst at Ovum, tells CNBC that Facebook has done mobile right since its IPO.

Clearly, Facebook hasn't always had the right mobile approach.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted in September that the company's mobile strategy had been too focused on HTML5 (the programming language that's compatible with any browser and doesn't require add-ons to function) and not enough on native apps, which users preferred.

"It completely blew up in their face, but they didn't waste any time," said Krishna Subramanian, chief marketing officer of Velti, a mobile marketer. "They got to work building very high-performing applications. They bought Instagram. They focused on mobile growth. The key thing that Zuckerberg does well is identify when things don't work and change quickly."

(Read More: Facebook's Growth Dependent on User Engagement)

The company has further boosted its mobile profile with the launch of Home, a series of apps that function as the home screen of an Android device.

Home isn't a revenue producer yet but definitely has potential, according to Stein. Home may appeal to marketers because odds of engagement with an ad increase dramatically if Facebook is always running on a user's phone.

But Home won't be a big earner for a while, Subramanian said.

"It will continue to evolve," he said. "Zuckerberg's gut feelings are very spot-on, but if you make 100 changes, not every one is going to work."

Facebook also partnered with manufacturer HTC on a smartphone, HTC First, preloaded with Home, and Subramanian said he could see the company taking on more hardware partnerships.

"You don't just go out and build a phone—you focus on what your core strengths are," he said. "I could see them building an OS to power devices or deeper integrations" on platforms.

"I definitely think things are going in the right direction," Subramanian said. "I'm definitely excited about what they are doing from a mobile-ad perspective and excited to see how they drive the connected consumer."

—By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.

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  • Matt Hunter is the senior technology editor at CNBC.com.

  • Cadie Thompson is a tech reporter for the Enterprise Team for CNBC.com.

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.

  • Jon Fortt is an on-air editor. He covers the companies, start-ups, and trends that are driving innovation in the industry.

  • Lipton is CNBC's technology correspondent, working from CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau.

  • Mark is CNBC's Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bureau Chief covering technology and digital media.