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Why Did Facebook Inc. Shares Gain 31% in the First Half of 2017?

Sometimes, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) competing with everyone else in the social media universe looks like the New England Patriots taking on a high school football team.

The company adds users and ad revenue every quarter, and never seems to plateau. As new competitors emerge, technology shifts, and other companies attempt to take its throne, Facebook knocks off all challengers, seemingly without much effort.

What happened

The social media giant just keeps getting bigger at a feverish pace. In Q1 2017, for example, it ad revenue grew by 51% year over year, from $5.2 billion to $8.85 billion. During that period, its total revenue climbed 49%, and diluted earnings per share (EPS) went from $0.60 to $1.04.

"We had a good start to 2017," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the Q1 earnings release , perhaps downplaying the company's success.

Facebook added revenue and users in the first half of the the year. Image source: Facebook.

So what

In addition to adding revenue, Facebook also grew its audience. Daily active users (DAUs) rose by 18% year over year to 1.28 billion, and monthly active users (MAUs) jumped a similar 17% to 1.94 billion. These gains, along with strong financial performance, and similar results in Q4, pushed shares higher through the first six months of 2017.

After ending 2016 at $115.05, Facebook shares closed at $150.98 on June 30, a 31% gain, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Now what

Facebook will likely continue to add users to its flagship social media platform, but its biggest growth opportunities may lie elsewhere. The company already owns two other multiple billion-user platforms in WhatsApp and Instragram, and it has its sights set on dominating the virtual reality (VR) space.

That's a growing market poised to take a step forward in 2017, though its biggest growth likely remains farther down the road. Facebook not only has a foothold in VR-headset technology thanks to its purchase of Oculus, but it can certainly leverage its core platform by adding VR content to it.

There's no certainty the company will emerge as one of the winners in that crowded arena, but it certainly has the tools to compete. In the short term, perhaps measured in years, Facebook has no clear social media rivals. That could change, but the sheer size of the company's user base has limited new social media players to niche offerings, and that situation is likely to continue for quite some time.

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Daniel Kline owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.