The message from Facebook’s f8 developers conference: If we can change, our app partners can change—and everyone can cash in. Mark Zuckerberg and his team showed off the highly anticipated mobile ad network that will be key for the social network's financial goals, and will allow app partners to show very well-targeted ads.
Facebook is now generating 60 percent of its ad revenue from mobile, a market it grew from nothing just two years ago. It's expanding to serve ads outside its own network based on its trove of user data, and onto apps like the Huffington Post and Vinted, where brands like Target and Coca-Cola can now reach audiences in more places.
“For the first time we can help you monetize in a serious way on mobile,” Zuckerberg told developers today.
Facebook is a formidable entrant into the world of mobile ad networks, rivaling Twitter’s MoPub and Google’s AdMob. Analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphreys expect the Facebook Audience Network to generate $9 billion in revenue by 2017, $3 billion of which Facebook would likely keep as part of its split with developers.
“Facebook arguably knows the most about its 1.2 billion monthly users,” SunTrust analyst Robert Peck said in a report to investors. “Adding this layer of information to the targeting capabilities of a mobile ad network could create one of the best ROI generating opportunities for advertisers.”
The three buzzwords of today’s conference were: build, grow, monetize—and Facebook showed off the tools to help developers do just that.
“Our goal with Facebook is to build the cross-platform platform,” Zuckerberg said.
All of today’s announcements for developers and marketers were meant to solidify Facebook’s hold on mobile.
“It’s Facebook’s play for immortality and protect it from going the way of MySpace,” said Ragy Thomas, of the social media management platform Sprinklr. He explained that Facebook wants to be an indispensable player for apps on mobile—the place where they turn to acquire users and keep them engaged.
Facebook announced several key features and services to tighten its mobile grip:
1. Log-in permissions: They seem routine but are actually big hurdles for getting users comfortable with sharing their phone data. Facebook now gives developers a way to let users cherry-pick which permissions—like location, contacts and other data—they allow when signing up for new apps.
2. Anonymous log-in: Facebook's app partners can allow users to sign in anonymously to try their services without giving up too much information.
3. Last year, Facebook bought Parse, a startup that now has 260,000 app clients. Parse is developing tools to help its app clients deliver offline experiences that are not dependent on an Internet connection.
4. Applinks, also developed by Parse, let users navigate between apps in a way similar to how they move from website to website on desktop. Only now they can deep-link between apps and back, a typically clunky process.
5. Facebook’s head of partnerships, Ime Archibong, showed off new tools intended to keep audiences engaged with apps. He said apps can use them to target people, reminding them when an app has been unused for a long time. He also revealed new buttons that are familiar to Facebook users, including the Mobile Like, letting publishers add it to their app content for sharing on Facebook. There also is a Connect to Mobile button for app developers to find their users on mobile websites and prompt them to download the app.
6. The Facebook Audience Network was the final product announcement of the day, which promises to deliver highly targeted ads outside of Facebook, and help the app developers make money from their mobile products.