Social Data and Scaling Your Mobile Ad ROI

Mobile ads are about to seriously change the ad game, or at least how you obtain user attention on the device. That means no more ads for prom dresses directed to men in their mid-twenties. No more ads for toddler’s clothing directed to women without any children. No more ads for large pickup trucks targeted to people living in high-density urban environments. No, mobile ads are finally going to improve. And Facebook is going to make sure of it. 

How will it happen? Easy: scalable and applicable social data. 

Marketers who understand their audiences via first-party, opt-in data are going to make the mobile experience a lot better for the rest of us. Before last week, there were few opportunities in the mobile ad ecosystem to leverage first-party social data. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have always been great mobile advertising platforms, but their reach has been relatively limited. These are, after all, only three of the dozens of apps people have on their phones. Combined with the finite number of ads social platforms are willing to show their users, marketers have heretofore found themselves with relatively limited reach on mobile, despite vast amounts of data about their mobile audiences. But, last week, Facebook changed all that.

We’re Big Fans of FAN: Facebook’s Audience Network 

At F8, the Facebook Developers Conference, Facebook announced the Facebook Audience Network (FAN). FAN works like any other mobile advertising network: mobile app publishers insert an ad network powered by Facebook into their apps and Facebook takes care of the rest. The ad network works on all ad units  —  IAB or native. App developers that use banner ads accommodate the same types of creative. Other companies that rely on native ad experiences can harness the same format using Facebook’s Audience Network. 

“Marketers have found limited reach on mobile, despite vast amounts of data about their mobile audiences.”

FAN might not seem like that big of a change from current mobile ad network capabilities, but there are a number of reasons to be excited about the platform. For instance, Facebook will continue to monetize successfully on mobile without cluttering the mobile News Feed with additional ads. And other mobile app developers will thrive with access to the new Audience Network that, in theory, should pay higher CPMs (Facebook refused to disclose pricing at F8).

Mobile Apps Ads Not Restricted by App

The biggest reason to be excited about FAN, however, is the emphasis placed on the data that powers the underlying network. FAN will leverage the same trove of targeting data that powers its own advertising network  —  the one on Facebook.com and the Facebook mobile apps. This is the same network that generated $2.5B in revenue last quarter and continues to grow at an incredible pace. 

Advertisers will be able to access FAN through the same tools used to access Facebook’s current ad products, i.e. Ads Manager, Power Editor and third-party companies with access to the Ads API (much like Umbel). Advertisers will also be able to use all the same targeting options to find the right users on Facebook. 

The difference now? FAN can use identical targeting options to find the right users when they are not spending time on Facebook. For any company marketing on mobile, which is pretty much all of them, this change finally affords the capabilities to achieve the same level of precision as ad targeting on Facebook on all other mobile apps.

Scale, Test, Repeat

Facebook has more information about its users than any other advertising company in the world, Google included. This enables advertisers on the platform to reach highly precise groups of users at a level of scale only previously obtainable on radio or television. Add sophisticated measurement, copy and imagery split testing, and the ability to target users where they spend an increasing amount of time  —  mobile applications that are not Facebook —  and you have a company that is poised for massive growth. 

Advertisers that understand their social audiences and know how to effectively leverage them will benefit the most. The experiences for users will improve, and ad networks will either have to step up their game or disappear completely.