Facebook now claims 543 million monthly active mobile users. The good news for Facebook is that mobile users are “more active” than PC users. The bad news is that mobile users are much harder for the social site to make money from.
This challenge has been widely discussed and was the subject of several questions on the recent Q2 Facebook earnings call. Facebook executives repeated several times during the call that they were being cautious about monetizing mobile so as to not disrupt the user experience.
Facebook is going to need to do something different with its mobile advertising if it hopes to maintain revenues (let alone grow them) as more users spend more time with Facebook on their mobile devices. This contention is supported by a recent study from EyeTrackShop.
The study compared the performance of Facebook ads on the PC, smartphone and iPad in terms of visibility, time spent and ad recall. The firm found that ads on the iPad were generally the most successful, while mobile ads underperformed the PC and iPad.
Relative to Facebook ads on the PC people exposed to Facebook’s current crop of mobile ads saw them less often and spent less time viewing them when they were noticed. Accordingly mobile ads had lower recall than ads on the PC or iPad.
As the diagram above indicates, ads higher up on the page are viewed more often than ads “below the fold.” On the PC, Facebook ads tend to be the second object viewed by users. By contrast, mobile ads appearing below the fold had only a 3 percent to 13 percent chance of being noticed according to the study.
EyeTrackShop said that iPhone users noticed Facebook’s mobile ads 6 percent less often and spent 14 percent less time on them (vs. PC ads). Ad recall for mobile was 20 percent less than on the PC site. However ads on the iPad mostly outperformed the PC. They were noticed by 18 percent more people, who spent 29 percent more time with them. Recall for Facebook ads on the iPad was just under (97 percent) of what it was on the PC.
It’s still very early for Facebook’s mobile advertising so there’s no reason to push the panic button. But this study indicates that Facebook will need to continue to experiment and potentially offer different kinds of ads to smartphone users than are shown on the PC.