Break out the balloons and ticker tape! On May 24, 2012, I recommended buying Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) , and yesterday was the first time since June last year that your purchase would have turned a profit. Actually, there's almost no way you would have made a profit, assuming that you pay any sort of transaction fees. The stock was up just 1.5% over the period, and that's not going to get anyone set up for retirement. But I do feel a certain sense of pride for having made the call. But even though it's "up," was there anything to my claim?
Why Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)? Back then, I had two main reasons for recommending Facebook. First, it had a huge -- and growing -- user base. Second, it had untapped revenue potential through its payment platform. Those two points still hold true, and I'm adding a third reason. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is finally figuring out how to make its oceans of data usable, which in turn makes them monetizable. This was most recently evident in the release of company's new Graph Search tool. Ostensibly the tool is supposed to help you find people with common interests that will allow you to make new friends -- how sweet.
Really, the graph tool is a marketer's dream come true. Before, the system saw you as a 45-year-old male who had "liked" 600 random pages. Maybe your friend told you about that one band, maybe your cousin's new business needed some more likes, maybe you actually like Joe's Pizza -- in the eyes of the algorithm, it's all the same. Now those days are over. You keep looking for friends who live in Houston and really like bikes. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is going to be able to target its ads with even more focus, which means that they can charge companies even more for the ads.
This is still early days for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)'s big-data usage, though. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is the undisputed king of big online data, and Facebook has a long way to go before it figures out the whole puzzle. But there are treasures to be found, for sure. Think of Google's ad targeting, or its promotion of companies that pay a bit more, or its forays into payments -- all of those can be in Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)'s future.
Why not Facebook? So that's the tiny dance that's happening in my mind. Here's the other side of that coin: Time is money. If you're just breaking even on your Facebook shares now, you start to wonder what you could have had instead? Unfortunately, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)wasn't your best bet over that period. Even simple picks like Google or either of the two companies that I was pulling hard for last year, The Buckle, Inc. (NYSE:BKE) and The Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS), would have given you a better return.