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A Sneak Peek at What's Really Behind Facebook's Growth

Not only is this important to Facebook, but other technology companies in the Valley as well, as data analysis continues to become more important. Zuckerberg and a host of other tech leaders have said matching skilled labor with job openings is becoming increasingly difficult. President Obama is working on immigration reform in Washington and Zuckerberg's recently launched FWD.us program, designed to speed up the immigration process and further advance reform, is a shining example of what Facebook's Growth team is looking for.

The team gets involved in almost every areas of Facebook. Whether it's Places, Messenger, Platform, Games and even helping the Revenue team, the Growth division is partly responsible for Facebook's enormous growth in revenue, which recently surpassed $1.8 billion on a quarterly basis.

When asked specifically about how the Growth team affected revenue, the relaxed Olivan opens up even more, delving further into what goes behind the scenes. He notes that while Facebook is largely dependent on advertisers to grow its revenue (88% of second-quarter revenue was derived from advertising), it is also well equipped to give them what they want.

"Advertisers behave in similar ways to users and you can use similar frameworks to look at the data and see how they're behaving," he said. "The same ones you're using for users can be applied to developers and advertisers and build projects together."

The team, which provides centralized analytics for all of Facebook and its near 5,000 employees, has been able to increase the number of active advertisers, finding various ways to help them promote their products or brands (with TheStreet being an active promoter of its content), by doing simple things to make it easier for people. Whether that's working with the page administrator, tinkering with how the page looks, adding a profile picture, adding friends or other tasks, the Growth team is most likely responsible for it.

It wasn't always like that at Facebook, says Olivan, who holds a master's degree in business administration from Stanford University and master's degrees in both electrical and industrial engineering from the University of Navarra. In the early days of Facebook, it really wasn't a data-driven company, despite having treasure troves of data on its users.

"If you think of Facebook four or five years ago, and you asked whether Facebook was a data-driven company, most likely, people would've said no," Olivan says in a conference room, just steps from where he and his team spend countless hours crunching data. "We created great products and people used them, but over the last couple of years, we've kind of evolved into being very data driven, and that's what Mark has asked us to do as a mandate."

Facebook was one of the first companies to change how it looks at its users, going from registered users to monthly active users (MAUs) to daily active users (DAUs), which are now exceptionally important, as the world shifts to mobile.

Now the company goes much further than just taking a high-level approach, looking not only at quantitative metrics, such as time on the site, where time is spent and what type of content is being created, but sentiment and other qualitative type metrics are being used as well. User satisfaction is one example put forth by Olivan. "We take that and then map that with the type of content you're seeing. A user might not be satisfied because maybe it's not quality content."

Every single thing at Facebook is now metric driven, within a network involving a slew of business metrics. Even small changes, moving a box on the page slightly for some users, is measured against a test group. The ability to analyze hundreds of different metrics and create impactful analysis and presentations are incredibly important to Olivan and his team. "My philosophy on analytics is that if no result comes of it, then it was a waste of time. Analytics need to drive product decision and drive impact."
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