Facebook: One billion friends and counting...

Facebook is taking over the world, one ‘like’ at a time. The woman who oversees the tech giant’s operations on three continents, Nicola Mendelsohn, talks power, prospects and privacy

One billion people. Only centuries-old religions can lay claim to as many subscribers as Facebook, a corporate phenomenon that’s only ten years old.

Users have become so addicted to its connectivity, they are permitting access to their photos, contacts and in some cases personal information in exchange for a profile on the social media website. The places they’ve been to, the feelings they’ve shared, the relationships they’ve started and ended are plastered on a wall for their “friends” to view and, hopefully, “like”.

It is an advertiser’s wonderland. A playground in which to propagate their message, while simultaneously gathering a wealth of data enabling them to narrow in on the most lucrative targets.

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, knows how it works. Before crossing over to Facebook last year, she was heading up two ad agencies and represented the industry as president of its trade association, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), for two years.

Now she is in charge of ensuring the firm makes more money through advertising, the single largest revenue generator for the NASDAQ-listed company, already raking in well over $2bn quarterly.

And yet there is nothing persuasive nor forbidding about this powerhouse mother-of-four when we meet in the swanky presidential suite of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai — a gift for a few hours, the firm’s public relations team says with shareholders in mind.

Mendelsohn has just hosted a breakfast meeting with big business CEOs (we can only guess she was warming them up to become advertising friends) and surprisingly she is running on time. Exhibiting her trademark smile, she welcomes Arabian Business into the palatial suite, which she is as much in awe of as anyone else.

She is relatively new to the company and is perhaps not yet accustomed to the way the other half live.

But Facebook is swimming in cash — and all predictions are that it will only grow exponentially.

In the second quarter of 2014, Facebook reported revenue of $2.9bn, up from $1.8bn during the same quarter in 2013. Net income came to $1.4bn. No wonder its share price has almost doubled from $38 when it floated in May 2012.

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