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Why 1 Billion Facebook Connections Do Not Matter

Ten million people flying on commercial aircraft in one day. One hundred thousand cars sold in a single day in China. One trillion searches on Google in a month. Or one billion people in China talking on their cellphones within 24 hours. Most recently, according to Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg, one billion people connected on Facebook in a day. But does a more connected world accomplish any important goal? And, mundanely, can Facebook turn the event into something financially valuable? Or is the announcement just a piece of public relations for the world’s largest social network?

On his Facebook page, Zuckerberg wrote:

We just passed an important milestone. For the first time ever, one billion people used Facebook in a single day.

On Monday, 1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family.

When we talk about our financials, we use average numbers, but this is different. This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world.

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For all Zuckerberg knows, this level of connection per day already has happened by cell phone or direct conversation. One billion connected people, and connected on Facebook, may be nothing more than connection via other means. Zuckerberg believes that a connected world is better for people:

A more open and connected world is a better world. It brings stronger relationships with those you love, a stronger economy with more opportunities, and a stronger society that reflects all of our values

The connection to a “stronger economy” is as impossible to prove as what makes a “better world.”

As far as business is concerned, the Facebook milestone can be put alongside how many people shop at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) on a given day, not to mention how many of these people buy something. By the same token, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) might point to the number of barrels of oil it has shipped. Oil consumption leads to a connected world, probably as people have more gasoline, and petrochemical plants make products that are used in telecommunications efforts.

Facebook’s one billion connections have not yielded it much money so far. The company may post revenue of $20 billion over the course of the next four quarters and make $3 billion in net income. That makes the company smaller than Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), which might connect several hundred million people a day as measured by visitors to its theme parks, the audience for its film and television content, and people who use its websites.

One billion people reaching one another in a day.

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By Douglas A. McIntyre