The question of whether this round of scandal would do immediate, direct damage to Facebook seemed settled soon after the Senate adjourned its Tuesday hearing. Facebook’s two most important stakeholders — investors and advertisers — didn’t run away after whistleblower Frances Haugen testified that it harms teen girls’ mental health and profits from outrage. They already knew the drill.
“This is gonna effectively be a storm that comes through,” Jeffries analyst Brent Thill told CNBC Wednesday morning. “And in past storms, this has been a great buying opportunity.”
Facebook scandals tend to run hot and cool down quickly. About once a year, something startling comes out about the social network: A campaign illicitly uses its data to psychologically profile voters; the company lies to advertisers and publishers about crucial metrics; its own researchers find it’s dividing a society it hopes to bring together. Then, after a round of outrage from U.S. lawmakers, everything returns mostly to normal. The scandal moves on like a passing storm.
For all of Facebook’s pitfalls, advertisers — its actual customers — can’t get enough of its targeting and scale. Facebook made $29 billion in the second quarter of 2021, up 56% from the year prior, with a net profit of more than $10 billion. The company’s ad system works so well that advertisers didn’t even bother to feign a boycott after the Facebook Files dropped. They’re hooked. “I’ve been trying to find an advertiser – any advertiser – to let me know they’re pulling spend,” Insider Intelligence director Jeremy Goldman said. “I still haven’t found any.”
With such loyal customers, Facebook has commanded Wall Street’s loyalty. Though the company’s stock is down 12% this month (and trading at a discount compared to Google), it’s outpacing the S&P 500 this year, up 23% compared to the S&P’s 19%. Facebook stock reliably pops after each stretch of difficulty, so Thill and his counterparts are directing their clients to buy. “How do investors make money?” Thill said. “In times like this, usually when the stock gets hit, that’s when you make a lot of money.”