Will Mobile Sink or Float Facebooks Boat?

As Facebook launches its IPO, analyst Informa Telecoms & Media warns that mobile could prove the social networks Achilles heel. It has so far struggled to incorporate advertising into its mobile offerings – and thats something Facebook itself knows all too well.

As it said in its S-1 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission: “We do not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products, and our ability to do so successfully is unproven.”

And as Facebook grows into emerging markets, where PC penetration is low, more and more of its traffic gets diverted to mobile. And, with its current strategy – or lack thereof – that makes those visitor difficult to monetise. According to Facebook, the number of daily active users has recently been increasing at a faster rate than the number of ads delivered on its network.

“Facebook has been in mobile for much of its existence,” says Guillermo Escofet, senior analyst at Informa. “It launched its Platform for Mobile in 2007, a year after it opened up its membership beyond university campuses – but, to its credit, it hasn’t wanted to rush the introduction of ads on its mobile sites and apps for fear of ruining the user experience. The same fear stopped the social network from switching on ads on its fixed-Internet site until relatively late.”

Currently, Facebook’s mobile monetisation strategy is largely dependent on its sponsored stories service, which it extended to mobile in March.

“There’s no reason why Facebook cannot start enabling its sponsored stories with mobile location and presence data,” Escofet adds. “Facebook should continue to look for ways of exploiting the unique advantages brought by mobile to target sponsored content, ads or whatever if might be more accurately with users’ needs and wants.”

“Mobile is Facebook’s future. It has to make sure it doesn’t also become its undoing.”

Paran Johar, CMO of mobile ad network Jumptap sees mobile as a huge opportunity rather than a risk for the social network. “Mobile should be a huge priority for the Facebook team, especially given the IPO,” Johar says. “Traffic to social media sites on the Jumptap network from January 2011–2012 grew 107 per cent, and had a 28 per cent uplift in CTR for ads on the channel when combined with outside data sources. The social networking channel remains one of the most popular for our top verticals, including auto, retail and CPG. There is an incredible opportunity for Facebook to monetise their massive mobile presence. 33 per cent of their traffic comes from mobile devices and 85 per cent of their $3.7bn in revenue comes from advertising – monetising mobile is a billion-dollar opportunity.”