Facebook mobile app ads give developers new opportunities for growth

Mobile app developers have a powerful new user acquisition channel with Facebook announcing mobile feed-based ads that link directly to an app download page in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

These new ads leverage the vast targeting options of the Facebook platform, allowing mobile developers to laser in on their desired audience. For instance, unlike any other ad network, Facebook can guarantee that impressions are seen by only people of a certain age or gender. As such, the other benefit of Facebook ads is the ability to segment audiences, test creative and optimize campaigns to a very specific degree.

Facebook is also unique in being able to know whether a user or their friends has previously connected with an app. Developers can then ensure that they are not wasting ad impressions on people who have already downloaded their app and connected with Facebook. The ads will also indicate how many of a person’s friends use the app. This type of social context has been found to increase clickthrough rates.

Facebook says it is working to make it easier for developers to measure the performance of their campaigns, including number of installs, in the future. With single sign-on, the company could one day provide information about how many users who clicked on an app from an ad, News Feed story or App Center, and then ultimately authorized permissions for that app. This could be especially useful considering Apple’s moves away from Unique Device IDs (UDIDs) to track and identify users, but Facebook doesn’t seem to have closed that loop yet.

Until recently, advertisers couldn’t select whether they wanted their ads to appear on desktop or mobile devices. In June, Facebook made this possible, but few developers have been advertising their apps this way yet. One reason might have been that previously mobile ads had to be Sponsored Stories, which means that they could only reach users who have a friend connected to the advertiser — by using an app or Liking a page, for instance. With the ads Facebook announced Tuesday, there is no such requirement. A developer can instantly reach millions of users.

These mobile ads will be sold on a cost per click basis through a bid model, similar to Facebook’s other ads. With large brands and other businesses all competing for the same ad space, the cost of advertising on Facebook has risen. Many social game developers have found that Facebook’s desktop ads are no longer a valuable source of new users since the returns aren’t high enough to justify the cost. With mobile ads being new and directly in the feed, early tests of Sponsored Stories have shown improved clickthrough rates and lower costs per click than traditional Facebook advertising. It remains to be seen how these mobile app units compare.

Facebook says this ad unit is only available to a limited number of beta partners for now, but mobile developers can sign up to be part of the beta here. In the meantime, mobile developers can advertise their apps by running Sponsored Stories in the mobile feed and take advantage of organic distribution through App Center, News Feed, bookmarks and notifications.