Speed is something users can never get enough of, but in this case, Facebook surely isn’t aiming just at its users. Speed matters just as much to advertisers. And advertising, especially on mobile devices, matter a lot to Facebook these days, since it’s seen by investors as struggling to make money from its users as they increasingly access the social network from smartphones and tablets. Some 543 million users, or half its base, access Facebook from a mobile device.
In particular, the new apps update the Facebook news feed in real time, so users don’t have to manually reload the page to see them. That’s key for Facebook’s mobile advertising hopes, since Facebook earlier this year began allowing advertisers to run so-called Sponsored Stories, or posts from one’s friends that marketers pay to highlight, right in people’s mobile news feeds. Now, those ads, like other posts, will be able to appear faster.
Why is that so important? Because real-time ad placement, already a staple in more “traditional” online advertising, could be a big key to success for Facebook’s mobile advertising, especially as it expands its ad exchange announced in June. “Mobile devices have put people in charge of their experiences,” Cindy Murphy, VP of brand activation at social advertising firm RadiumOne, said at MediaPost’s Social Media Insider Summit today. “It’s more of a real-time experience.”
In particular, advertisers are keen to reach people at precisely the moment they’re ready to eat lunch at a restaurant or grab a coffee at a local cafe. To do that, they need to know where people are at a particular point in time and, more importantly, they need to know an ad for a discount or coupon will get to them instantly.
Speed in ad delivery is key for another reason, too. It’s becoming clear that standard Web ads simply shrunk down to smartphone screen size won’t cut it, but not simply because of the screen size. A bigger factor may be that people view their mobile devices as much more personal than personal computers ever were, so they loathe being interrupted while they’re doing things on it.
A better opportunity for marketers, then, may be the moments in between activities, when people are already switching gears anyway. “There are natural breaks in television,” says Chris Cunningham, CEO of appssavvy, which helps create ads for social and mobile companies. “You can find natural breaks in mobile too–such as between levels of a game. They can be in the form of a large, beautiful ad.” But those moments are, well, momentary, so that’s why speed matters there as well.
So as much as you may enjoy a Facebook app that’s speedy, advertisers–and Facebook itself–may like it even more.
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