3 Reasons Facebook will Lose Brands and Revenue From Lack of Mobile Solutions
Lately there have been many articles written about Facebook's "Mobile First" strategy and every time my heart skips a beat because I'm hoping that Facebook has fixed its major social mobile flaws. Unfortunately, all of this discussion is usually about Mobile Ad options and not about expanding the platform itself and its mobile capabilities for brands.
Currently social mobile fan engagement for Facebook doesn't exist outside of News Feed. Brands have to work-around using splash pages and microsites.
Many marketers have stopped considering Facebook promotions altogether, in part because the introduction of Timeline and subsequent reduction in traffic to Facebook tabs has left them with few options. But the issue isn't just about functionality. Marketers and brands want to activate their fans with broader engagement opportunities and Facebook's current set of restrictions creates a poor user experience.
Here are three reasons why I think Facebook will lose brand involvement and revenue if it doesn't take steps to address its lack of mobile solutions.
Tabs Aren't Viewable on Mobile Devices
When we first noticed mobile traffic increasing on Facebook, we waited. We were hopeful that soon the tabs we created to engage with fans would be viewable on mobile devices.
Only a small fraction of fans accessed our promotions via mobile browsers at the time, so we created splash pages on microsites as a quick fix for the nasty error pages that would show up if our fans clicked a link on their mobile device to a tab from News Feed. These splash pages only existed to redirect fans to the desktop experience, which saved our clients from unnecessarily investing in separate mobile experiences that only a small fraction of overall traffic would see.
These days are long gone.
Today well over half of Facebook's traffic-- 68% according to Facebook's Q2 earnings call -- comes from a mobile device. And because Facebook doesn't support tabs on mobile devices, we now recommend that our clients invest in more complex mobile microsites to ensure a seamless experience for Fans on mobile devices.
Brands Create Mobile Microsites, Facebook Makes User Flow Difficult
When we create a mobile microsite for Fan-gated or Fan-exclusive experiences -- meaning that we need to ping Facebook to determine if a user is a Fan -- we're constantly forced into a non-ideal user flow. Due to Facebook permissions, it may require up to 7 steps just to get to the experience. This makes my head hurt as a marketer because I know that a fraction of potential users drop off at every stage of the experience.
Brand Advertising Budgets Will Move From Facebook To Fuel Social Mobile Experiences
Because it is increasingly expensive to obtain more fans on Facebook and because Facebook offers no real mobile solution for brands, I believe many brands are going to start building social mobile experiences that only tangentially use Facebook, if at all.
Campaigns like Burberry Kisses will become more prominent. Brands will spend ad dollars to drive traffic directly to these experiences, making Facebook ads less important. Brands may offer Google log-in instead of Facebook log-in, or offer both. Brands may create applications that connect with a user's mobile phone contacts instead of Facebook friends.
Potential Long-Term Impact for Facebook
Facebook might be purposefully making mobile difficult on marketers because the platform is "protecting" its community from spam. Facebook has made design changes like Timeline to seemingly deter marketers and brands from building social promotions on its platform and has added more permissions for users to accept for social promotions off Facebook.
At the same time, Facebook's mobile ad revenue shows gains, which indicates that brands and users are increasingly serving and/or clicking mobile ads. While good for its share price, Facebook's focus on aggressively monetizing its mobile audience unquestionably damages the Facebook user experience.
All of these changes highlight a shift that's been developing for quite some time. Brands are starting to more frequently think outside of the Facebook box, and as brand marketers move on, their ad budgets will go with them.
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