Facebook has a dirty little secret. They don’t know how to make money with their mobile app.
That may sound like no big deal, or even a little humorous, but its actually pretty scary. Facebook has one of the biggest user pools around and if they can’t find a way to make their smartphone users convert, then what hope is there for the rest of us?
The trouble stems from the fact that Facebook’s mobile app is a highly stripped down version of the real site. It’s about giving users a quick overview of what’s happening and a way to post an update while on the go. It’s not designed to handle the interconnected series of links, likes and lookarounds that keep people on the web version for 18 to 38 minutes per visit.
Facebook ads? They’re no space for them on mobile dashboard.
According to the Facebook IPO filing (via the New York Times)
[Facebook] expected its mobile users to “exceed the growth rate of our overall monthly active users for the foreseeable future.” And if executives are not able to chart a path to profitability on mobile platforms, the filing indicated, the company’s “revenue and financial results may be negatively affected.”
Poor Facebook! I feel bad for them.
Okay, not really. Because here’s the thing about the internet and social media in particular – like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, they always find a way.
In this case, it could mean inserting sponsored posts into mobile newsfeeds. Maybe giving Facebook credits for those who visit a special mobile ad page? Or, heaven forbid, a banner ad that covers part of the screen.
I’m sure Facebook has thought of all of these options and they probably worry that people will object. But people object to every change Facebook makes. They objected to photo tagging and timelines and newsfeed filtering. They object and they object and they still show up to the party, because if they don’t, then they’re missing out.
As the Times points out, we’ve had 15 years to get used to banner ads on our computers. Imagine where we’ll be with mobile 15 years from now. It’s likely we’ll have gotten used to small ads on the small screen. Or maybe by then mobile phones will pick up on your pulse and respiration then deliver a suitable ad that supersedes whatever you’re doing.
“You appear to be hungry? May I suggest you stop playing Angry Birds and visit Wacko’s Tacos for lunch? They have a Buy 1 Get 1 deal today only!”
The only reason mobile isn’t paying off yet is because we’re still stuck in the banner / search web advertising mode. Mobile is a different animal and soon we’ll have new advertising options that suit.
Then Facebook will make more money and hopefully, the rest of us will, too.