Facebook Business Model

Inside the business model of Facebook (Meta) How Meta makes money

Ever wondered how Facebook (parent company: Meta ) generates billions in net revenue each year. It is not just the world’s most advanced social media network but also one of the largest players in the digital advertising sector. Its biggest competitor in digital advertising is none other than Alphabet, the parent company of Google. The other leading competitors of the company in digital advertising include Amazon, Microsoft, Tiktok, Tencent and others. Facebook is the second largest player in the digital advertising sector based on market share.

According to Statista, Facebook’s market share was 18% in 2023 in digital advertising compared to Google’s 39%. Amazon was the third largest player with a 7% market share.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has divided its business into two primary segments. The first is its family of apps – Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Threads, and Messenger. The second segment includes the Reality Labs products.

Currently, Meta generates substantially all of its revenue from the marketers advertising on Facebook and Instagram. A key factor to note here is that Meta generates most of its ad revenue from mobile advertising or by targeting users accessing Facebook and Instagram on mobile devices. As a result, changes made to iOS in 2021 had a negative effect on its ad revenue and its ability to measure the effectiveness of its ads. Since Meta depends a lot on mobile advertising, changes to mobile operating systems including Android and iOS can hurt its revenue and ability to measure the effectiveness of ads.

Quick Facts

Mark Zuckerberg can exercise voting rights with respect to a majority of the voting power of Meta’s outstanding capital stock and can control the outcome of all matters submitted to Meta stockholders for approval, including the election of directors and any merger, consolidation, or sale of all or substantially all of Meta’s assets. It means that as the largest shareholder of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg holds control over all the key decisions. Simply put, decision making power is concentrated in the hands of Meta’s CEO.

Meta’s Class B common stock entitles the holder to ten votes per share, and its Class A common stock holders are entitled to one vote per share. According to a 2023 sec filing, Mark Zuckerberg owns 99.8% of class B shares. Zuckerberg holds 61.1% of the total voting power at Meta. The number of class B Shares owned by Mark Zuckerberg is 349,745,790. He also owns 831,706 class A shares. The other entities that have higher than 1% voting power include Vanguard, FMR LLC and BlackRock, Inc. Vanguard holds 3.2% voting power at Meta, BlackRock 2.7% and FMR LLC 2.2%. Note: – Vanguard and BlackRock are also among the leading Apple shareholders.

In fiscal 2023, 80% of Meta’s total costs and expenses were related to its Family of Apps and 20% to Reality Labs. According to its form 10K, the company expects to spend half of the total Reality Labs expenses on Augmented Reality in 2024. Meta’s loss from operations in the Reality Labs segment in 2023 exceeded $16 billion.

Meta generated around $1.9 billion in net revenue from Reality Labs in 2023 while its total costs and expenses for this segment were $18 billion.

In 2023, Meta generated $133 billion from its family of Apps (mainly Facebook and Instagram), which was 16% higher compared to the prior year.

Facebook’s number of Daily Active Users (DAUs) at the end of 2023 was 2.1 billion. Asia Pacific remained the largest market of Facebook based on the number of DAUs. Facebook’s number of DAUs in Asia Pacific region was 914 million compared to 205 million in the US & Canada.

Facebook’s number of Monthly Active Users (MAUs) at the end of 2023 was above 3 billion. Its MAUs in the Asia Pacific region at the end of 2023 was close to 1.37 billion compared to 272 million in US and Canada and 408 million in Europe.

Facebook’s annual Average Revenue Per User in 2023 according to its 2023 form 10K was $44.60, which was 13% higher compared to the prior year. The social media giant earns the highest average revenue per user from the US & Canada region, where its ARPU for the four quarters of 2023 was as follows : (Q1: $48.85), (Q2: $53.53), (Q3: $56.11), and (Q4: $68.44).

Meta invests in AI to increase Ad effectiveness and revenue

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that AI will be a top priority for the brand in 2024 and it is going to invest a substantial sum in AI research. According to Zuckerberg, Meta has made a lot of progress in terms of advancing AI research and the metaverse. In the longer term, Meta is planning to introduce several new products and technologies and will continue to invest heavily in AI research over the coming years too. However, in the shorter term, Meta plans to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its advertising model with the help of AI. Meta plans to incorporate AI into its core products. The company aims to enhance advertising campaigns and increase its advertising revenue using AI. AI will also support other Meta products including AI chatbots. The Ray Ban Meta smart glasses feature Meta AI or the AI based conversational assistant.

In October 2023, Meta announced that it had started rolling out its first generative AI-powered features for ad creatives in Meta’s Ads Manager. The global roll out will be completed by 2024. These AI enabled features include background generation, image expansion and test variations which will help advertisers optimize their ads for higher efficiency, engagement and effectiveness. These AI enabled features will make editing tasks easier for the advertisers. Meta has also tested these features while in Beta mode with a small set of advertisers who claimed that these features could save them a lot of time since they can create multiple assets variations with the click of a button. However, this is just a beginning, and these AI models will need to be further trained to cater to every brand’s unique voice and visual style. The company plans to take a collaborative approach and with feedback from advertisers will continue to develop new and enhanced AI models that will allow them to launch and test creatives faster.

Here’s an overview of how Facebook operates its business and generates revenue:

Facebook’s Business Model:

Facebook operates as a social media platform, connecting people globally, allowing them to form communities. Its business model revolves around creating a vast and engaged user base and providing tools and services for individuals, businesses, and advertisers to connect, share content, and communicate. Key components of Facebook’s business model include:

  1. User Engagement: Facebook focuses on attracting and retaining a large user base. Users engage with the platform by creating profiles, connecting with friends and family, sharing content, and participating in groups and communities. It has continued to expand its user base which has now reached past 3 billion monthly active users. User engagement is critical since it drives higher conversion and revenue for the social media platform.
  2. Content Creation and Sharing: Users generate and share a diverse range of content, including text posts, images, videos, and more. This user-generated content contributes to the overall vibrancy of the platform. User generated content is at the core of the social media platforms including Facebook. Attractive and engaging content gets shared a lot. Even companies that have their own Facebook pages, try to create shareable content to gain higher attention.
  3. Connectivity Tools: Facebook provides tools and features that enable users to connect with each other, such as friend requests, messaging, comments, and reactions. This fosters social interactions and engagement. Users can also join groups or follow other pages. companies use these features to increase their follower base while followers can engage with all their favorite brands and personalities on Facebook (and Instagram).
  4. Business Pages: Facebook offers tools for businesses to create and manage pages. These pages serve as a digital presence for businesses to connect with customers, showcase products or services, and engage with their audience. According to a report published by Meta in May 2022, “Meta is in the business of small business. More than 200 million businesses use our apps every month to create virtual storefronts and reach customers.” Since social media channels are critical for businesses wanting to increase customers and improve awareness, Facebook attracts a vast number of small businesses seeking to improve their social media presence.

Facebook’s Revenue Model:

Facebook depends on its advertising-driven model for revenue generation. The company leverages the vast amount of user data from its platform to offer targeted advertising services to marketers and businesses. Key components of Facebook’s revenue model include the following:

  • Advertising Revenue:

Businesses and advertisers pay Facebook to display targeted ads to specific user demographics. The platform uses sophisticated algorithms to deliver ads based on user interests, behaviors, and demographics. Its ad algorithm has continued to evolve with time to balance user experience with revenue on the Facebook and Instagram platforms. It also offers more targeted advertising which reflects in Facebook’s improved average revenue per user.

Facebook offers various ad formats, including sponsored posts, display ads, video ads, carousel ads, and more.

  • Ad Auction System:

Auction-Based Model: Facebook uses an auction system where advertisers bid for ad placements. Advertisers set budgets and bid amounts, and Facebook’s algorithms determine which ads to display to specific users based on relevance and bid amounts.

  • Ad Placement and Reach:

News Feed Ads: Sponsored content appears in users’ news feeds, blending with organic content.

Sidebar Ads: Display ads may appear in the sidebar of the desktop version of Facebook.

Instagram Ads: Facebook’s advertising extends to Instagram, providing additional reach to businesses.

  • Video and In-Stream Ads:

Monetization of Video Content: Facebook allows content creators to monetize their videos through in-stream ads, sharing revenue with creators.

  • Data-Driven Insights:

Analytics Services: Facebook provides businesses with insights and analytics based on user data. Advertisers can analyze the performance of their campaigns and make data-driven decisions. It is also something that makes Facebook advertising effective for businesses. Based on the insights that companies gain from Facebook’s analytical tools, they can also make changes or optimizations to their ongoing campaigns.

  • Other Monetization Channels:

Virtual Goods and Gifts: Facebook allows users to buy and send virtual gifts, generating revenue for the platform.

Subscription Groups: Certain groups on Facebook can offer subscription-based access to exclusive content or features.

Facebook’s (Meta) Monetization Strategies (Sources of Income)

While Meta generates substantially all of its revenue from Facebook and Instagram advertising, it also utilizes other monetization techniques to monetize its platforms. Facebook employs several monetization strategies to generate revenue. Check out the list below:

  • Advertising:

Ad Revenue: The primary source of revenue for Facebook is advertising. Businesses and advertisers pay to display targeted ads to specific demographics based on user data. If Facebook’s ability to measure the effectiveness of its ads is somehow limited or reduced for example, due to changes in the legal environment or in mobile operating systems, it will adversely impact Facebook revenue. Marketers are concerned about ROI and therefore, if they are not certain about the return on marketing investment on Meta platforms, they will spend less on Facebook or Instagram. The company shows targeted ads to the desired audience segments to generate revenue from marketers laying ads on Facebook or Instagram.

Ad Formats: Facebook offers various ad formats, including sponsored posts, display ads, video ads, carousel ads and collection ads. The image ads are effective for driving traffic to a website or app through an engaging visual. Facebook display ads are great for demonstrating various product features. The carousel ads by Facebook allow you to display ten photos or videos that can be used to display different images of the same product. Collection ads allow to display a collection of images. For example, an ecommerce business can target individual customers with collection ads that include different items from its product catalogue.

  • Facebook Business Tools:

Pages and Ads Manager: Facebook provides business tools like Pages and Ads Manager that allow businesses to create and manage their presence on the platform. Advertisers can boost posts, create ad campaigns, and track performance. Facebook’s ad manager includes an intuitive interface that advertisers can use to create and manage ads or make changes to running campaigns in real time. Facebook has also simplified the process of creating and laying ads on Facebook. If there is an attractive post, which you feel can engage a larger number of users, you can simply boost it with a few clicks and reach a vast number of users based on your preferences.

Business Pages: Businesses can create pages to showcase their products, services, and engage with customers. Business pages can be great to increase brand awareness and build a strong online presence. Small businesses can create their pages on Facebook to reach local customers easily and be found in search results. Business pages help businesses increase their number of followers, find new customers and be found online as well as increase brand awareness. However, business pages also play a critical role in terms of communication and customer loyalty. Businesses can engage with their customers on Facebook and inform them regularly about latest deals and offers.

  • Facebook Marketplace:

Marketplace Ads: While primarily a feature for buying and selling goods locally, Facebook Marketplace also allows businesses to advertise their products directly within the Marketplace. Businesses can boost their listings or promote their products in product recommendations. Apart from that, Facebook also charges a commission on sales which can be 5% of the sales or a minimum $0.40.

  • Facebook Gaming:

Game Monetization: With the growth of gaming content on the platform, Facebook allows gamers to monetize their content through features like in-stream ads, fan subscriptions, and stars.

  • Virtual Goods and Gifts:

Facebook Gifts: Users can buy and send virtual gifts to their friends on special occasions. Facebook takes a share of the revenue generated from these virtual gift transactions.

  • Oculus VR Devices:

Oculus Store: Following the acquisition of Oculus VR, Facebook monetizes virtual reality through the sale of VR games, apps, and experiences on the Oculus Store. Meta is also generating revenue from the sales of VR headsets. Meta currently offers Quest 2, Quest 3 and Quest Pro VR headsets to its customers. It has also partnered with RayBan to create smart glasses. However, Meta’s reality labs expenses are much higher than its earnings from this segment.

  • Facebook Shops:

E-Commerce Integration: Facebook Shops allows businesses to set up online stores on the platform, making it easier for users to discover and purchase products directly through Facebook.

  • Subscription Groups:

Paid Groups: Facebook allows certain groups to be designated as subscription groups where group administrators can charge members a subscription fee for access to exclusive content or community features.

  • Workplace by Facebook:

Enterprise Collaboration: Workplace by Facebook provides a collaborative platform for businesses. Organizations pay for premium features and additional functionality to enhance internal communication and collaboration.

  • Data Monetization:
    • Data Insights: Facebook leverages the vast amount of user data it collects to provide insights and analytics to businesses. Advertisers can use this data to target their ads more effectively.
  • Event Monetization:
    • Online Events: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook introduced features allowing businesses and creators to monetize online events by charging participants for access.


Meta’s main source of revenue is advertising. The company generates substantially all of its revenue from Facebook and Instagram advertising. It is the second largest player in the digital advertising sector, generating most of its revenue from mobile advertising. Meta generates its revenue from the businesses and marketers advertising on its Facebook and Instagram Platforms.

Meta has divided its business into two primary units – Family of Apps (FoA) and Reality Labs (RL). The Meta Family of Apps includes Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Threads. Facebook and Instagram are its main sources of income currently. The Reality labs products include VR headsets and smart glasses.

The main focus of Reality Labs is to create cutting edge innovations and research that helps build the metaverse. The current product offering of Reality Labs includes VR headset, software and content. Reality Labs also includes Meta’ augmented reality projects like Ray Ban Meta smart glasses featuring Meta AI. Most of Meta’s investment in Reality Labs is geared towards the development of technologies and products that might take full shape in at least a decade. In the near term, the company is developing early metaverse experiences through Reality Labs products like the VR headsets (Quest devices). In 2023, the company spent more than $18 billion on Reality Labs and generated a revenue of $1.9 billion.

Meta’s largest shareholder is Mark Zuckerberg, who holds 99.8% of its class B stock and 831,706 class A shares.The other leading shareholders at Meta include three institutional shareholders – Vanguard, FMR LLC and BlackRock, Inc. Vanguard holds 180,705,425 class A shares or 8.2% of total class A shares which gives it 3.2% voting right. Black Rock owns 151,798,631 class A shares or 6.9% of Meta’s total class A shares, which gives it 2.7% voting power at Meta. (Vanguard and BlackRock are also two leading Apple shareholders.) FMR LLC owns 123,373,905 class A shares or 5.6% of the total class A Meta shares and holds 2.2% voting rights. Sheryl K Sandberg, who is a former Chief Operating Officer of Meta and currently serves on the company’s Board of Directors owns 1,497,582 class A shares. Christopher K Cox, Meta’s Chief Product Officer owns 374,153 class A shares (according to a Meta sec filing 2023).