Facebook's IPO has revealed one of its greatest weaknesses: the need to monetize its increasingly mobile user base through advertising. Speculation has been rife about how Facebook plans to solve this problem, which future stockholders will want addressed.
To that end, a new mobile ad program is rumored to launch in March, according to a Financial Times report. Here are five directions Facebook could take with mobile ads, and how your business can position itself to get ready.
1. The Death of the Top or Bottom Banner Ad
It's easy to ignore the banner ad at the bottom of your cell phone screen on a mobile website. While this is the more popular display method for ad platforms like Google Mobile Ads, click-through rates are lower on a mobile device than on a computer. How can Facebook raise those rates? By placing ads in the middle or off to the side of the screen rather than in an easily ignored area.
Optimization Tip: Write short, catchy ad copy in advance. Get 15-, 25-, and 50-word ads ready to go for when Facebook mobile ads drop. Choose graphics carefully or leave them out, as screen space will be extremely limited. This will help your business even if Facebook keeps the common banner ad format, since you'll be able to use those sound bytes for other online ads.
2. The Use of More Sponsored Stories
Sponsored Stores are ads that a business purchases to showcase on Facebook when friends of users like a certain product or mention it. In order to be featured in Sponsored Stories, first people must like your company on Facebook.
Optimization Tip: While it's stating the obvious, maximize your presence on Facebook if you plan on using any of their advertising, not just the mobile variety. Create a Facebook page and ask clients, employees, and friends to like it, growing your Facebook fan base. Keep asking for "likes" through email newsletters, on blogs, and in other company communications to grow your base. If you want a quick influx of Facebook fans, try running a contest or coupon promotion.
3. Localize Ads
Facebook is likely to take a few pages from current mobile advertising on other platforms and from companies that localize ads based on the viewer's location. The possibility for Facebook to do this with its large user base may be a unique selling point for its mobile ads. Being able to pinpoint businesses on a map is already a selling feature for Google Mobile Ads through integration with Google Maps and Google Places.
Optimization Tip: If you run a brick-and-mortar business, make sure your address appears on all of your Facebook listings.
4. Luring More Facebook Users Toward Mobile
While it is true that Facebook's mobile user base is growing at a rapid pace and now comprises at least half of its users, that still represents almost 50 percent of its user base that isn't mobile. If Facebook starts selling mobile ad space, it should entice current users to start using Facebook on the go. Its location features already encourage users to tell people about their locations through sharing their locations through their status messages, or through checking in friends next to them at a particular location.
Optimization tip: Optimize your website for mobile viewing. You can also use a resource that Google developed for this purpose, howtogomo.com, to make your site look better on a smartphone or a tablet.
5. Offering Mobile Ads to Current Advertisers First
Facebook will probably announce mobile ads at the same time for everyone, but it's safe to say that you're more likely to find a notice about them in your inbox if you're a current advertiser.
Optimization tip: If getting the jump on your competition is important to you, you'll want to be the first to know about Facebook's mobile ads. Most business owners don't have the time to scan tech blogs daily, so setting up a small, inexpensive campaign on Facebook once you've created a page will get you onto its radar. Who knows, Facebook may even offer a promotion to entice you into mobile ad territory.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest and Facebook.