Facebook at 10: It's now a mobile business


The Drum recently published this article by me about Facebook’s evolution into a mobile business. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below:

Today, Facebook turns 10 years old – and what a 10 years it’s been for the world’s leading social media platform. From its early roots as an emerging competitor to MySpace, to today’s publicly listed organisation with 1.23 billion users, the platform has thrived where thousands of others have failed.

Last week, Facebook set up its 10th birthday to be one of celebration when it published its 2013 Q4 results. Not only has the platform exceeded investor expectations, posting its best quarter yet for revenues, profits and total users, but also the report revealed that mobile advertising now accounts for a massive 53 per cent of the company’s total ad revenue.

We’ve been hearing about the ‘year of mobile’ for at least half of Facebook’s lifetime, so it makes strategic sense that the platform has now become the official champion of mobile, successfully working out how to make money from the shift in user behaviour from desktop to smartphone.

With the majority of its users active on mobile, and the majority of Facebook’s revenue coming from this medium, Facebook has essentially become a mobile business. Facebook has backed this by continually introducing updates focused on improving its mobile experience. Just last week, for example, Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that the Graph Search feature will soon be rolled out on mobile versions of the social network.

Facebook’s ongoing success lies in making advertising appealing to brands. Last week, advancements were introduced globally for its ‘custom audiences’ ad-targeting feature. This feature allows brands to upload lists of existing customers from their CRM in order to advertise to them. The latest updates mean advertisers can target users they know have recently used their Facebook apps, web pages or mobile apps, based on tracking within the app or site. These new custom audiences are dynamic, constantly refreshing themselves rather than needing to be regularly uploaded again.

These advanced retargeting features tie in closely with another announcement – five ‘call to action’ buttons for page post ads will soon be available: shop now, learn more, sign up, book now and download.

These updates offer interesting opportunities for brands. While Facebook has simplified its ads offering, retargeting website and app users is an easy alternative to Facebook Exchange for brands with simple websites and streamlined product ranges. The additional ‘call to action’ buttons also directly compete with Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards, launched last year, reinforcing Facebook’s offering as a direct response advertising platform.

Crucially, these changes also back Facebook’s continued focus on user experience. Where previously any Link post would have Like, Comment and Share buttons, with a hyperlinked image, replacing the engagement options with a ‘sign up’ button gives users a clear idea of the advert’s destination link before they click. For Facebook, this means a reduction in unnecessary outbound traffic.

With user experience enhanced, advertising efficiency increased and outbound traffic lessened, Facebook has hit a home run in enhancing its platform. For brands, now is the time to reconsider whether you’re taking full advantage of its offering. The mobile newsfeed is a highly desirable space, and competition is only set to become fiercer.