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Facebook's earnings disappoint investors, match predictions

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Facebook also said it delivered 2 percent fewer ads to users in the United States, as more people shifted to using the social network on smartphones and mobile devices, where Facebook only recently started selling ads on an experimental basis.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in some of his first public remarks since the company went public in May, sought to assure investors that Facebook is focused on delivering ads and other products to mobile users, whose numbers grew by 67 percent, to 543 million, over a year ago.

“Mobile is a huge opportunity for Facebook,” he said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

But after being viewed as one of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies in recent years, Facebook now finds itself working to convince investors and advertisers that its concept of “social advertising” — ads that incorporate recommendations from users’ friends — can be the next big thing in online commerce.

Early tests of new social ads, including those appearing on Facebook’s mobile platform, indicate they are more effective than Facebook’s traditional display advertising, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday.

But she said Facebook is “still in the early days of building that monetization engine,” and she acknowledged that advertisers face a “learning curve” in terms of understanding how to use those ads.

Social ads are so new that it’s difficult to forecast what kind of revenue they will produce, added Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, explaining why Facebook would not offer “guidance” or detailed projections for earnings in the next quarter or year.

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