can mobile-only sponsored stories turn things around for facebook?

Nearly two months ago we predicted the advent of Facebook mobile ads. Well, excited advertisers, the day for your brand’s sponsored stories to hit Facebook’s mobile platform has finally arrived! Early ad tests show positive results, but can the success of mobile pull Facebook’s stock out of its sloppy stumble downhill? And if it can, what will it end up costing users?

facebook’s mobile lifeline

So far, Facebook’s first year on Wall Street hasn’t gone exactly as planned. Since the IPO launched at $38 a share in May, it’s quickly lost steam – by nearly 50 percent. Fighting to get back on top, Zuckerburg and his team are now giving advertisers the option to reach users via mobile-only, desktop-only, or mobile and desktop ads or sponsored stories. For certain companies like app production houses or smartphone cell plans with mobile-only customers, the slyly integrated sponsored stories are a definite plus.

At this early point in its mobile ad timeline, Facebook’s mobile ads flow smoothly within the architecture of the mobile feed. A severe departure from the “Look at me!” online ads of the late 90s, these ads look just like stories from your friends, barely detectable as paid placements and labeled as such only by a discreet notification attached to each item. So far, their intrusion is minimal, and their format, successful. TBG Digital determined that even in a limited, early-release format, click-thru rates ranked as high as 1.14% for a total of $0.86 cost per click – a great deal for advertisers who want impact.

However, as more and more advertisers begin taking mobile ads out for test drives, will they begin to overpower users with ad feeds that look like the mobile equivalent of newspaper ad pages?

proceeding with caution

Like with all social networks, Facebook’s success depends on the whims of its users. Its decision to go public has already threatened to change all that and throw user experience aside in favor of advertiser demands. However, without the users, who would the advertisers’ ads reach? Without question, Facebook’s key to success lies in keeping its users happy. And let it be known, Facebook does not plan to go the same way MySpace.

However, Facebook hardly plans to leave investor company interests out of the equation. The new ad format has given advertisers a couple of new and different ways to decide how they want their brands displayed, but keep your business’ eyes open for more Facebook ad changes coming soon. The network has yet to hint at the release of a final ad model prototype, and change may be closer than you think. Ad platforms that base brand visibility on hyper-sensitive user location information, allow advertisers to REALLY bid on precious Facebook real estate, and more have already been pre-announced, so stay tuned!

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