When Facebook filed its S-1, Mark Zuckerberg outlined 35 risk factors that could "materially and adversely affect" the company. You know what number three on that list was? "Facebook's mobile platform doesn't show ads -- so the more that grows, the worse for us."
And mobile is (shocker) growing. In fact, 91% of US citizens have their mobile phone within reach 24/7! So why is it taking so long for Facebook to jump on the mobile gravy train?
Well, they've finally stepped up to the plate -- at least where ads are concerned. According to Forbes, Facebook has launched its first mobile-only ads. It's about time. Let's learn more, shall we?
About Facebook's Mobile-Only Ad Product
You may be thinking -- wait, Facebook already has mobile advertising! You're right, they do. Back in February, they announced that marketers can advertise on mobile devices ... but you had to buy mobile advertising in conjunction with desktop ads. This new Facebook mobile ad product is designed for marketers who only want to buy mobile ads. If you're new to the Facebook mobile ad game, here's what those puppies look like, courtesy of VentureBeat:
So, what exactly can marketers pay to promote on mobile devices? It's your old friend Sponsored Stories! You know, the posts that you can pay to get better visibility in people's news feeds. So if you have a particularly successful or important update on your page's Timeline, as of today you can pay to have that post show up in the news feeds of your fans and your fans' networks -- not just in the right pane on Facebook where ads traditionally reside (and presumably get fewer clicks, too). Advertisers can choose from the following placements for their ads in the API and Power Editor:
All Placements: This option includes the right-hand side + News Feed desktop + News Feed mobile.
All Desktop Placements: This option includes right-hand side + News Feed desktop.
News Feed (Desktop and Mobile): This option includes News Feed desktop + News Feed mobile.
News Feed Desktop: This option includes News Feed desktop only.
News Feed Mobile: This option includes News Feed mobile only.
So if you're a Facebook advertiser who likes choices, well, today's your lucky day.
Why This Matters for Marketers
If you've been paying to promote your brand's Sponsored Stories on Facebook, this means your expenditures could get much more efficient. Before, you couldn't tell if you were getting better results with mobile ads or desktop ads. Well, now's your time to streamline, because you finally be able to test whether mobile or desktop Facebook ads work better for your business. And if it turns out mobile is the clear winner, well, you have the option to opt for a mobile-only ad campaign! Forbes also points out that agencies and marketers with large budgets should see greater efficiencies when buying their Facebook ads, because "they can be bought more efficiently through Facebook's self-service tools rather than through a Facebook sales person."
Alternately, maybe you haven't been running Sponsored Stories ads in the past because you already know you have a largely mobile audience. Well, now you can get started experimenting with your Facebook ads without throwing money away on something you didn't need. So if you're, say, a brick-and-mortar business, you're probably pretty used to people looking up information about you in the fly; and on the fly typically means they're using their mobile devices to do their research. There's a good chance you'll benefit far more from promoting one of your Sponsored Stories on Facebook mobile than the Facebook on someone's desktop, don't you think?
Thing is, we're still not sure just how consumers feel about these ads appearing in their mobile Facebook feeds. If your audience is annoyed when your ads appear during their desktop/laptop browsing session, I'd assume that annoyance would get dramatically amplified during a mobile browsing session. Think about it -- the screen is small, they're on the go, their service may be spotty -- they're not in the mood to see anything other than exactly what they're looking for. This risk is one any internet advertiser runs ... it's up to all of us to experiment to see whether our specific audiences can put up with it. But as always, the more relevant your content, the less likely your audience will be to see your updates as interruptive.