How to Prepare for Facebook's First Earnings Report

This afternoon at 4 p.m. Facebook will report its first earnings report since it went public in May, giving us all sorts of information, like financials goodies and user stats, that it's never had to divulge before.

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This afternoon at 4 p.m. Facebook will report its first earnings report since it went public in May, giving us all sorts of information, like financials goodies, that it's never had to divulge before. It's like Facebook's first test as a big-kid company. And as both the biggest and the most disappointing IPO of the year, the cold hard facts about the state of the company will let us know how to feel about a company whose future has been hotly debated by observers. So, here's everything you need to know about Facebook's first ever earnings report before its first ever earnings report.

First, the numbers. What is the mark Facebook is trying to hit to make analysts happy? 

The official number analysts expect to see out of Facebook is 12 cents per share on a revenue of $1.14 billion for the quarter, according to a poll by FactSet, reports The Associated Press. That compares to the $3.71 billion in revenue all of last year. Analysts have also reached a consensus on what Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson says is an "utterly miserable" 19 percent ad revenue growth, suggesting that Facebook is low-balling Wall Street on purpose to make its reported number look better. "If Facebook only 'beats its estimates' by a little, you'll know that the company's business has deteriorated since the IPO," he writes.

That is just an average of all the guesses, though. Individual analysts have made estimates in a wider range than usual for a big earnings call, The Wall Street Journal's Alexandra Scaggs wrote. "Analysts are guessing the company will report earnings anywhere from nine cents to 29 cents a share, a 222 percent jump from the smaller end of the range to the larger," she writes. But none of these guesses really, really matter, because as Scaggs explains, analysts are particularly bad at getting the first earnings ever right. "Estimates for a company's initial report after publicly listing its stock were 54 percent off, on average, from the actual results, according to a review of Dealogic and FactSet figures," she writes.

OK, is there anything besides revenue and ad revenue to look out for?

Ad revenue is particularly important for Facebook, which has gotten itself many skeptics since going public. But, the company will also mention user engagement numbers, another just as important metric. Facebook will either confirm or deny that it has lost some popularity in the U.S. and other markets. Since Facebook sells people, it needs to keep those people coming to make money. The other fun thing will be its mobile share. That's the up and coming thing that Facebook is trying to conquer.

Once Facebook gives the results, how will we know if it's good or bad?

After-hours trading of Facebook's stock will be the most widely cited measure of how investors feel about the results. The social network's share price sank quickly from its $38 IPO price, but it has bounced around the $30 mark since then. But after Zynga, the game-maker whose business relies heavily on Facebook, announced poor quarterly earnings last night, Facebook has drooped down to about $27 today. Keep an eye on Zynga's stock price, too, since it might fall further (it's already off since dropped 40 percent today) if Facebook disappoints as well.

So, who is going to tell us all of this news?

Maybe Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself, maybe not. Considering the disdain Wall Street had for the hoodie wearing leader during the roadshow and vice versa, he might not present the results. Facebook gave no comment on the matter when AllThingsD's Mike Isaac inquired. "It is possible — though not probable, I’d bet — that he’ll pull a no-show the first time around," writes Issac. Though, he thinks Zuck will make an appearance then leave the rest to his business arms Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman.

What if I miss something? Or if Facebook makes an announcement not covered in this post?

Not to worry, we'll have a breakdown of the results when the call starts this afternoon at 4 p.m..

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.