Ever since the Facebook IPO (and for some time before it as well), critics, skeptics, and everyone with a financial stake has wondered how boy-genius Zuckerberg would lead his monolith of social media into the realm of profitability in the fastest emerging market of all: mobile. It’s no secret that Facebook’s financial success hinges on advertising, those pay-per-click blurbs to the right of the news feed offering everything from guitar lessons to shoe sales. The question has been – and Zuckerberg himself asked it in his SEC filing – how to make advertising successful in the mobile space, with much less screen real estate on which to show ads and a potentially higher user-dissatisfaction rate when those ads interfere with someone scrolling through their feed.
A couple of recent reports have both discouraging and encouraging news. EyeTrackShop used heat mapping technology to track mobile vs. web viewing habits and found that iPhone users notice ads 6 percent less and spent 14 percent less time looking at them. Not only that, mobile users recalled the ads 20 percent less than those who viewed ads on the web. By these measures, mobile ads just don’t perform as well.
But that’s only part of the story. AdParlor, a company that specializes in large-scale Facebook advertising for some rather well-known clients (Audi, LG, and Groupon, to name a few), released its own data with a more positive spin. It seems that mobile users are 15 times more likely to click an ad than web users and the click-through-rate for mobile ads is considerably higher: 1.32% vs. 0.086% on the desktop. Now those numbers are significant.
On balance, there is reason to be optimistic. If the data are correct, the increase click-through-rate should more than outweigh the drop in visibility for mobile ads. And it’s worth noting that Facebook is still new at mobile advertising. With some more study and a few tweaks, Zuckerberg and Co. could turn many of those skeptics and critics around.