Until recently, Facebook faced a wall of criticism that that it had failed to sufficiently capitalise on its mobile users. The situation changed in January of this year, when Facebook announced its 2012 Q4 earnings, revealing that mobile accounted for around 23 per cent (or $305m of its $1.33bn of advertising revenues in the quarter. In addition to this, Instagram was used to share more than 600m photos to Facebook on New Year’s Day alone.
To underscore the rising importance of social media on mobile, comScore revealed recently that Facebook accounts for 23 per cent of all time spent on mobile apps in the US, which is a huge amount of time. This can only increase with the launch of Facebook Home, which is neither an app nor an operating system, but an ’apperating system’ as the editor of Wired recently (and cleverly!) called it. Facebook Home will tie Facebook even further into the very fabric of the mobile user experience, and provide brand new insights and opportunities for advertisers.
The inextricable rise of social media advertising is something that anyone who buys mobile media will have witnessed, with the rise of customized ad units appearing within social platforms, namely Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook alone, we have seen extremely positive results, although largely with direct response app acquisition campaigns.
This success is largely due to the quality of data that Facebook provides, which results in more precise targeting, more relevance, and ultimately much more effective engagement and download numbers. It’s also due to the creative units rolled out over the last few months that allow users to install the app without leaving Facebook.
More data and insight can only be a good thing for consumers in the long term, because it means they will be served much more relevant advertising, so it’s a situation where both the brand and the customer win.
As a counterpoint, a lot of Facebook advertisers have seen short-term spikes, but have failed to generate sustained long-term scale and efficiency. Through a lot of hard work, this is something that we have managed to overcome for our clients; the next crucial step for Facebook is to enable its inventory for real-time bidding, which will enable advertisers to really leverage the optimization tools that are emerging in the mobile space, namely DSPs (Demand Side Platforms). In the meantime the Facebook ‘Power Editor’ tool remains the most efficient way to get scale and results, although this is not easy, and requires constant optimization and monitoring from a dedicated social team.
Facebook is not the only social platform of course. Twitter remains a formidable force, and the recent announcement of mobile app deep-linking functionality within Twitter Cards is a significant opportunity for mobile advertisers. This new functionality means that users will, as Twitter explains it: “be able to click on a link to either view content directly in your app, or download your app, depending on whether or not they have your app installed”.
We wholly expect this new functionality from Twitter to play a major part in app acquisition campaigns, and we have no doubt that Twitter will be developing other similar solutions for advertisers on the whole. In addition, other social players, such as Foursquare and other local check-in platforms, are getting great shared results with high street retailers, and this will continue to grow.
Second screen advertising also represents another piece of the ever-growing social mobile ecosystem. Whilst it is not a pure social play as such, second screen advertising creates a connection between broadcast TV and digital interaction that can only be leveraged by social platforms. The desire for us to share and engage more with what we’re watching is rapidly on the rise and can be seen with apps such as Zeebox, The Walking Dead Companion App and Peel. Increasing #hashtag usage from these second screen platforms is, to me, the fastest growing mobile/social opportunity for advertisers after Facebook.
Overall, we are still at the very early stages of social mobile advertising, but the opportunity is immense. It is still to be made clear how Facebook will best utilize Home to serve contextually relevant advertising to customers, and we are still to finesse brand awareness campaigns, as thus far it has largely been about delivering direct response and app downloads. Overall, however, these are new and exciting times for mobile social advertising, and these new opportunities are ones that we fully expect many brands to bring to the fore of their ongoing mobile strategy.
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