Facebook building a mobile ad platform is one of those rumors that is just completely expected, so it makes sense that it keeps showing up. SFGate points out that the social networking giant is expected to announce major advertising plans on the last day of this month at a splashy event in New York, implying Facebook will unveil mobile ads next week. The timeframe for such an announcement has very quickly gone from "2012" to "March 2012" to "February 29, 2012."
On February 29, 2012, the company's first Facebook Marketing Conference (fMC) is taking place. The company has booked the American Museum of Natural History in New York for the six-hour, invitation-only event, which will be streamed online.
The fMC invitation is very vague: "Join us as Facebook leaders, along with product and marketing experts, share our newest solutions, actionable insights, and proven strategies that demonstrate how you can use social technology to drive business growth." Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook vice president of product Chris Cox, and Facebook vice president of advertising David Fischer are the three executives listed as attending. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not mentioned, but he could of course still make an appearance.
It's really no surprise Facebook isn't saying what it plans to announce. One rumor says Timeline for Pages will be unveiled at the event. On the other hand, the social networking giant did just partner with Bango, a company that provides billing and analytics for app stores, mobile apps, and websites.
The last rumor suggested Facebook is planning on inserting Featured Stories into people's mobile feeds in March. It would make sense for the announcement to come at the end of February and for the gradual rollout to begin next month.
When Facebook revealed earlier this month that it had 425 million mobile users as part of its filing for an initial public offering (IPO), the company admitted that it was still not monetizing its mobile users. In other words, Facebook's mobile business is not making any money. In the Summary Risk Factors section, the filing stated: "Growth in use of Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently display ads, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results."
Facebook has managed to establish itself as a major advertising supplier because it has a unique offering to businesses that are willing to gamble a little with their marketing dollars. Advantages include being able to target users with a precision not found in most other forms of advertising. With its quickly growing user base (845 million monthly active users and counting), the company's social graph is exploding across all demographics, which only further fuels improved ad targeting, performance, and revenue as well.
If it can replicate the same success on the mobile side of things, the company will be able to create a respectable new source of revenue for itself. It won't be easy. Facebook will have to consider the usual potential privacy issues, as well as figure out how to work around the problems every advertiser faces in mobile: small screens, slower connections, and the strong relationship users have with their personal devices.
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