Facebook mobile news feed ads are a hit with advertisers and they’re the most efficient way to purchase Facebook fans, say five out of five leading Facebook ad-buying software startups. The data comes from a news study by AdParlor that I’ve verified with leaders of four competing Facebook ad platforms / services TBG Digital, Optim.al, BliNQ Media, and Nanigans.
Pay for a Like through ads and you can market to someone free forever more. With the highest click through rate (CTR) 1.037%, and the second highest conversion rate (CVR) of 65.76%, Facebook’s mobile ads are the best bang for your buck. That’s a strong sign that Facebook has the potential to turn small screens into big revenues.
Facebook recently began allowing advertisers to choose where they wanted their ads shown on Facebook. Their options are across all of Facebook, desktop (feed and sidebar), desktop news feed only, mobile and desktop news feeds, or mobile news feed only.
This is has unlocked new strategies for advertisers. Placements can be chosen to find the highest CTR and CVR possible, which gets them the cheapest effective cost per thousand ad impressions and cost per fan. But until now there hasn’t been much data on where to place ads if you’re trying to buy fans.
AdParlor, one of the biggest Facebook ad buying software/services, ran a study of two million clicks on Facebook’s mobile feed, desktop feed, and desktop sidebar ads. It found that businesses looking to build a fan base of marketing message viewers and clickers would be well to buy as many mobile ads as they can. Dave Williams, CEO of Facebook adtech startup BLiNQ Media that was recently acquired by Gannett concurs, saying “Our studies have shown that mobile beats desktop placement by a 3 to 1 ratio.”
AdParlor CEO Hussein Fazal tells me “Everyone asks about mobile” regarding massive interest in advertisers getting inside Facebook’s well-trafficked app. Ric Calvillo, CEO of another Facebook ads powerhouse Nanigans is seeing big interest in Facebook mobile ads, “For campaigns where Facebook mobile ads make sense, the majority of our customers are already leveraging or plan to leverage mobile ads.
However, since Facebook is cautiously ramping up the number of ads in the mobile feed to keep the user experience healthy, mobile ad inventory is far from infinite. Patrick Toland of Facebook ads buying platform Optim.al says that “The biggest challenge in Facebook mobile is getting scale. It’s not that Facebook doesn’t have mobile users but rather that they’ve limited the exposure to them which is a good thing in the best interest of the consumer experience.”
Advertisers may need to play around with different targeting combinations to reach the maximum number of users through mobile since Facebook won’t let you hammer a small audience with a high number of ads. Toland agrees the mobile news feed offers the cheapest way to buy fans.
After mobile, the next best option is the desktop news feed, which has 0.485% CTR and 48.46% CVR. Once relevant audiences were exhausted on the desktop feed too, AdParlor found it was best to choose to advertise to all of Facebook. This lets Facebook automatically see what placement is working best for your particular ad and get your more views there.
This optimization gives cross-Facebook placement conversion rate with 75% of clicks turning into fans. However, the click through rate on these ads is just 0.091% so your campaigns might not be as cost effective there.
The #1 mobile feed, #2 desktop feed, #3 cross-Facebook ad placement strategy is the best one for most businesses there’s a little more nuance than that. AdParlor CEO Hussein Fazal tells me that fans bought on mobile Like statuses more frequently but are less likely to view a business’ videos and photos. That means a movie studio or web TV network looking to hook users with video trailers might want to focus on buying fans from the desktop placements.
Simon Mansell, CEO of longtime Facebook ads server TBG Digital, concurs that fans are not equal. He says that his company’s research shows that “desktop fans are generally worth more per fan than fans acquired via mobile.”
Nanigans‘ Calvillo explained why desktop fans are so valuable especially those from non-news feed ads, “Being a less prominent ad unit, there’s a certain intent threshold that may need to be met before a user will engage in the first place.” That means they’re more likely to click, like, comment, and evangelize.
Some businesses still question whether Facebook fans are a good investment, worrying that only around 16% of their fans see each of their news feed posts. Facebook has also been deleting fake accounts and fake Likes, meaning Pages might have fewer fans than they thought.
But considering that businesses can publish to the news feed as frequently as they want, as long as they have some direct or even indirect way of turning views and clicks of their marketing messages into dollars, there’s likely ROI to be had. However, Facebook needs to improve post-click conversion measurement, as TBG’s Mansell says “brand advertisers are still trying to work out the brand metrics which Facebook moves and how this can drive sales.”
AdParlor’s study is also promising for Facebook’s longterm business model. It looks the small screen actually helps click through rates. While Facebook might show seven ads per page on the desktop, mobile news feed ads have 14X higher CTR than desktop ads.
That means Facebook may get twice as many clicks on a single mobile feed ad than an entire page of desktop ads. If Facebook can subtly ramp up mobile ad frequency without scaring off users, the shift to mobile might not be the death sentence everyone’s calling it.