Facebook usage soars during coronavirus pandemic

Facebook warned of a 'significant reduction in the demand for advertising.'

Stephen Lam / Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic has, so far, been very good for Facebook’s metrics. It can’t say the same for its ad business.

The company saw a surge in user growth, with an average of more than 1.73 billion daily active users (DAUs) in March, Facebook reported in its first quarterly earnings for 2020. That’s up from 1.66 billion in the previous quarter. Across its “family of apps,” which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, daily active users climbed to 2.36 billion, while monthly actives hit 3 billion for the first time.

At the same time, the company warned of “a significant reduction in the demand for advertising” in a statement that echoed similar remarks from Google a day earlier. Facebook had previously advised that ad revenue would take a hit, despite a surge in usage around the world.

"Our business has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, like all companies, we are facing a period of unprecedented uncertainty in our business outlook,” the company wrote in a statement. “We expect our business performance will be impacted by issues beyond our control, including the duration and efficacy of shelter-in-place orders, the effectiveness of economic stimuli around the world, and the fluctuations of currencies relative to the U.S. dollar."

But even with the negative impact of COVID-19, Facebook’s revenue was still up 18 percent from the same quarter last year, with revenue growing to $17.7 billion.

During a call with investors, Mark Zuckerberg made clear Facebook has no intention of pulling back on the amount it’s investing in its platform despite slowing revenue growth. “Rather than slamming on the brakes now, as a lot of companies may, it’s important to keep on building and keep on investing,” he said.