In his first interview since Facebook's disappointing initial public offering, CEO Mark Zuckerberg's comments drove shares of the struggling social media company up 3 percent, an increase some analysts said could not be sustained.
At the Disrupt San Francisco 2012 conference, Zuckerberg said the company's real future lies in the mobile market, noting that some 5 billion people now have mobile phones -- many more than who have computers -- and for that reason, Facebook is going to make a lot more money on mobile ads than on desktop ads.
David Gerzof Richard, professor of social media marketing at Emerson College, said Facebook is "smart to go mobile," noting that this is the first year when more than 50 percent of people in the United States have smart phones.
"Facebook can do a lot of cross-promotions, team-ups at places like restaurants and bars," Gerzof Richard said.
Still, Zuckerberg acknowledged the performance of his company's stock has "obviously been disappointing, and we care about our shareholders."
The stock has floundered since Facebook's much-anticipated May 18 IPO, and reports of early investors cashing out prompted him to pledge that he would not sell shares for a year.
The company's biggest mistake, Zuckerberg said, was "burning" two years on building an HTML 5 mobile Web interface instead of building downloadable iPhone and Android native apps.
"If any of what he said today could hurt him, it's his admission that they threw a lot of money down the drain doing that," said Todd Van Hoosear, principal of Fresh Ground, a Cambridge-based social media consulting firm.
When asked about morale at the company, Zuckerberg conceded the stock price's dive over the last four months "doesn't help."
"But it's not like this is the first up and down we've had," he added. "We have a pretty good compass for what we need to build."
He defended Facebook's widely criticized $1 billion purchase of Instagram, noting that company now has more than 100 million registered users.
But after listening to the interview, Francis Gaskins, who heads an IPO research firm, said, "he's supposed to be CEO, but he acts like a chief technical officer. That's what's not good for investors."
"He says his mission is to connect the world. I want to hear his mission is to increase shareholder value," said Gaskins, president of IPO Desktop Premium. "There's an adolescent disconnect between the two. Here's a man who's responsible for a $50 billion loss in the stock market, and he comes across as an Energizer Bunny with no direction."
"The only thing he said that's encouraging is he understands their future growth is in mobile," he said. "But that's like saying the sun's going to come up in the morning. That's not a big insight."
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