Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the 2018 F8 developer conference. Courtesy Facebook.

Published: July 26th, 2018

Around 2.5 billion people use Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or the company’s instant messaging app, Messenger, at least once per month, Facebook Inc. has revealed.

Co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the number during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, noting that the company planned on using it as a metric moving forward because it reflects the number of individual users rather than active accounts, and the fact that many businesses and consumers use more than one of the social media giant’s services.

In fact, Zuckerberg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and CFO Dave Wehner, spent a greater portion of the call than usual discussing Instagram’s importance to Facebook, with Zuckerberg thanking co-founder Kevin Systrom by name, congratulating his team for reaching more than 1 billion active users, and praising Instagram-developed features such as Stories and mobile video platform IGTV.

“When Instagram joined us the team had only 16 people,” he said. “This has been a story of great innovation and product execution. And it’s also a story of how effective the integration has been. We believe Instagram has been able to use Facebook’s infrastructure to grow more than twice as quickly as it would have on its own. So a big congratulations to the Instagram team and to all the teams across our company that have contributed to this success.”

Launched in June, IGTV is a video platform designed specifically for mobile viewing, with contributors such as LaurDIY and King Bach contributing long-form vertical videos.

Zuckerberg noted Facebook’s efforts in developing its Stories feature into an ad-friendly format too, with options such as polls, questions, and collaborative stories involving groups and events being added in recent months.

COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, highlighted Instagram’s value to its small business users, noting that the platform now has 25 million Instagram business profiles, 2 million of them advertisers.

“With 1 billion active people on the platform, I think Instagram is definitely both a direct response opportunity [and] an opportunity for discovery,” she said. “The format is so visually appealing and people are telling stories with pictures, so we see both anecdotally and in the data that this is a great place for people to become aware of a product in the first place.”

GDPR and other concerns

Of course, Zuckerberg and co. couldn’t conduct the call without acknowledging the elephant in the room: The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect on April 25.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook’s monthly active user numbers in Europe fell by approximately 1 million, likely due to GDPR, but preferred to frame the legislation as an opportunity by highlighting two tools that Facebook launched in response to the regulation’s rigorous privacy and transparency standards. One allows any user to see the ads any page is running whether they’re targeting the user or not, while the other is an archive of political or issue-based ads that the company will be launching in the U.S. in time for its 2018 midterm elections.

“These ads are now labeled so you can clearly see who’s paying for them and, within the archives, you can see the budget associated with each ad, how many people saw it, and search all ads with political or issue content that an advertiser has run for up to seven years,” Zuckerberg said. “This level of transparency will mean increased accountability and responsibility for advertisers globally.”

One part of Facebook’s operations that GDPR hasn’t yet affected is its revenue, though as Sandberg noted, it wasn’t fully rolled out during the quarter, and that, 1 million loss aside, the majority of users indicated they were comfortable with Facebook’s data sharing standards.

“It was very encouraging for us to see that the vast majority of people affirmed that they want us to use information, including from the websites they visit, to make their ads more relevant,” Sandberg said. “Advertisers are still adapting to the changes, so it’s early to know the longer-term impact.”

Our thanks to investment research platform Seeking Alpha for the transcriptions from Facebook’s July 25 Q2 earnings call.

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