As Facebook tries to make the world ‘closer,’ business booms – CNET

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is trying to polish up the social network’s image.

James Martin/CNET

Mark Zuckerberg last month stepped onstage in Chicago to talk about a nicer, gentler Facebook — one that wasn’t just intent on “making the world more open and connected,” as he’s often said, but taking it a step further: “Bringing the world closer together.”

Facebook, he said, wants to strengthen people’s relationships and help them connect over common interests — online and in real life.

Whether you buy into the message or not, the new mantra was the focal point of the inaugural Facebook Communities Summit, a gathering for Facebook Groups leaders trying to help people connect. It was an important gathering for CEO Zuckerberg and his team as they deal with controversies ranging from violence being broadcast on their video livestream service, Facebook Live, to fake news spreading on the world’s biggest social network.

But there’s another aspect to connecting people that Facebook doesn’t talk about as often: It’s good for business.

That point was clearly made on Wednesday, when Facebook reported earnings results that topped Wall Street’s expectations. In second quarter ended June 30, it said sales were up 45 percent to $9.3 billion, surpassing analyst estimates of $9.2 billion. Profit was also up, surging 69 percent to $1.32 a share to beat estimates of $1.13.

“We had a good second quarter and first half of the year,” Zuckerberg said in a statement Wednesday. “Our community is now two billion people and we’re focusing on bringing the world closer together.”

More specifically, that’s  2.01 billion monthly users, with 1.32 billion visiting the site every day. 

Part of Facebook’s success for the quarter came from the company’s focus on mobile and video. Mobile ad sales were $8 billion, making up around 87 percent of Facebook’s total ad sales. 

Cleaning up the image

The latest earnings report comes as Zuckerberg grapples with the company’s outsized influence. Some of President Donald Trump’s detractors blamed fake news circulating on Facebook for tilting the scales in his favor last November. Facebook Live is also a lightning rod for criticism. One of the latest controversies happened earlier this month, when two Mississippi teens reportedly sexually assaulted a woman live on Facebook.  

Facebook’s new mantra is just one of the ways the company has been trying to clean up its image. Zuckerberg has been on a whirlwind tour of the United States, meeting people outside the insular bubble of Silicon Valley. In his travels, he’s met with Ford factory workers in Michigan, cattle farmers in Wisconsin and community leaders in New Orleans.

Zuckerberg’s also been trying to appear more accessible. Over the weekend, he did a Facebook Live question-and-answer session while grilling up brisket and ribs in his backyard.

But as Facebook tries to fight the stigma of its darker side, for now the company continues to rake in the cash — which tends to mask those other troubles.

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