Facebook's first shareholder meeting was heavy on politics, light on specifics, and at times veered into technical support.
Facebook's shareholder meeting on Tuesday--its first as a public company--couldn’t have come at a more loaded time. Facebook's stock price is stagnant and concerns about consumer privacy are paramount after the recent revelations about the NSA.
Then there are Facebook's added challenge of servicing individuals who are both investors and users of the platform--so that everyone thinks they're an expert.
So how did Mark & Co. do? Overall, I'd give them a C. Here's how my scoring breaks down.
Presenting and Handling the Audience Q&A - A The team did a good job of both handling the presentation portion and shepherding the shareholders through the variety of questions posed. Questions ranged from probing and insightful inquiries regarding the company future to more specific questions about Facebook features. At times, the questions veered toward product support: If you joined late in the call, you might assume you were listening in on a focus group or product ideation session regarding Facebook’s future instead of a shareholders’ call.
Mark Zuckerberg has clearly had a lot of presentation training since his early days, and he's smooth. But smoothness doesn't compensate for the earned confidence a seasoned CEO brings--and inspires.
Privacy Concerns - C Zuckerberg attempted to clarify Facebook’s stance on the current NSA scandal and whether or not Facebook is sharing data. His responses, and use of the words "direct access" might lead others to believe that Facebook might still have something to hide.
These concerns were reiterated in the follow-up questions regarding privacy. Shareholders (read: users) expressed a desire to be included in the decisionmaking process around how data is used and expressed frustration when they felt the system asked for unnecessary data throughout their experience.
Advertising - C Facebook execs emphasized that they are hinging the company’s success on the ability to grow the user community and monetize their use of the Facebook platform. This strategy may rely heavily on an increased use in emerging markets as there is growing concern in the United States, and rightly so, about the apparent move from the Facebook platform by younger consumers.
Stock Valuation - C Making "Facebook the most valuable company we can" was a recurring theme in answers to the questions posed. That's all well and good, but if I were in a meeting with them as an investor, I would be curious about how they specifically plan to get there. Not only did the "plans" for Facebook’s future seem to be vague, they were unwilling to even forecast revenue or income for the coming year, citing their newness as a company.
All in all, Mark Zuckerberg and his group did a good job handling the questions, but their lack of specificity in the answers reminded me very much of a political debate in which no real stance is taken.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row. Eric advises clients on the “whys” of business – why customers buy, why teams work and the all-important “entrepreneurial why”. He is the author of Laddering and his weekly radio show, The 'Better You' Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. Learn more about Eric at www.ladderingworks.com or e-mail email@example.com. @eholtzclaw