Innovative ad campaigns from Coca-Cola, Microsoft and other major clients helped Facebook grow its sales by 44% to over $17.9bn in 2015.
Sheryl Sandberg, the social media titan's operating chief, highlighted a Coke ad that ran in Kenya and Nigeria, where slow internet speeds limit the audience for online videos. The drinks giant's solution was to create a text-and-image slideshow using screenshots from an existing video ad. The campaign reached 2 million people and raised awareness of the brand significantly.
Sandberg also played up a mobile ad for Halo 5, Microsoft's space shooter on Xbox One. It was designed to catch people’s attention within three seconds - even without sound - as they browsed their news feed. It was viewed 380 million times and drummed up demand for the game.
“If we have high quality ads, those create a good customer experience,” Sandberg said. Brands get excited about Facebook ads because, “They combine the art and science of both a creative canvas…and targeting”.
One happy customer was Shutterfly. The online image-publishing service advertised using "beautiful pictures of weddings and babies" on both Facebook and Instagram - the company's photo-sharing app - and enjoyed a six-fold return on its investment.
Advertisers have flocked to Facebook to tap into its enormous audience. Each day, users watch more than 100 million hours of video. Daily users rose 17% to 1.04 billion in December, and around 1.59 billion people log in every month. And WhatsApp, the company's mobile messaging app, attracts nearly 1 billion users a month, while Instagram has 400 million.
Facebook continues to introduce new features and improve its user experience. It's currently rolling out Reactions, allowing users to express themselves using five emojis as well as the famous 'Like' button:
“When you only have a like button, if you share a sad piece of content or something that makes you angry, people may not have the tool to react to it," says Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg. "We want people to be able to share all of the things that are meaningful to them, not just the things that are happy."
Facebook also plans to expand its Messenger service to allow users to browse products, make payments and communicate with customer service teams. Another new offering is Sports Stadium, where Facebook's roughly 650 million sports fans can follow and comment on live sporting events, interact with friends, watch replays of the action and access expert commentary.
Elsewhere, Zuckerberg spoke about his plans for Oculus, the virtual reality business which Facebook bought for $2bn in 2014. Although the initial market will be gamers, he said, "Ultimately I think it's going to change the way that we communicate and live and work in addition to how we play games.”
When Facebook first acquired Oculus, Zuckerberg described several potential uses for the technology. "Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home."
Read the full earnings call transcript on Seeking Alpha.