Case study: Facebook mobile install ads take app from No. 253 to No. 5 in App Store

Facebook advertising company Nanigans ran a Facebook mobile campaign for an e-commerce app developer during the holidays, moving the app’s rank in the Apple Store from the mid-200s to the top 10 in its category, with the use of Facebook’s mobile app install ads.Naningans logo

Within a 10-day campaign period leading up to the holidays, the app moved more than 200 spots from No. 253 spot before the campaign to the No. 5 spot. Nanigans found an average clickthrough rate of 0.74 percent, reaching as high as 1.5 percent in core segments. The ad delivered more than 32.5 million impressions, with more than 8.5 million in one day. In total, the campaign cost $325,000, with daily spend surpassing $90,000 on multiple days.

Facebook first announced its mobile app install ads coming out of beta in October 2012 for iOS and Android developers that have integrated Facebook into their apps. The ads allow developers to promote their native mobile apps through Facebook’s mobile News Feed, featuring an ad design with a “Install Now” call to action that brings the user to an app’s landing page in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Facebook mobile app install ads

Facebook to halt mobile ad network test

Facebook says it intends to put testing of its mobile ad network on hold while it focuses on developing ad experiences within its own mobile apps.

Beginning in September, Facebook worked with a few unnamed partners to allow its unique targeting data to be used for mobile advertising in third-party apps and sites. This added a layer of demographic- and interest-based targeting to traditional mobile exchanges that bid for placements on mobile ad networks.

As AllThingsD first reported today, Facebook is bringing that test to a close some time this month. Facebook said in a statement:

“We are pausing our mobile ads test off of Facebook. While the results we have seen and the feedback from partners has been positive, our focus is on scaling ads in mobile news feed before ads off of Facebook. We have learned a lot from this test that will be useful in the future.”

In June, we discovered the first hints of a Facebook ad network when Sponsored Stories and other Facebook ads began appearing on Those are still in place, but a new agreement with Zynga means the developer won’t be obligated to put Facebook ads on its site starting March 31.

The end of these two tests suggest a Facebook ad network similar to Google AdSense is farther off than some expected. AllThingsD sources say the company’s conversations with publishers about delivering ads on their sites in exchange for a revenue split have “paused.”

With so much desktop inventory, it might not make sense for Facebook to launch a display network at this time. Instead, it created Facebook Exchange to bring cookie-based retargeting ads to, filling up some inventory. As users shift to mobile, though, Facebook can’t deliver as many ads in its own apps or mobile site without infringing on user experience. That’s where the mobile network test came into play.

But either the results weren’t compelling enough or Facebook isn’t prepared to make the investment it would need to in order to scale the effort. Earlier this month, AllThingsD and Business Insider reported that the social network was considering buying Microsoft’s Atlas platform, which would put the company in a better position to launch an ad network.

In the meantime, Facebook seems to be putting resources toward ads within its own mobile apps and site. We’ve heard from a source familiar with the company’s plans that a new video ad is in the works. Facebook’s new local search and discovery feature, Nearby, also presents a number of interesting mobile ad opportunities for the future.

Facebook for Android 2.0 focuses on speed

Facebook today announced a major update to its Android application that improves the speed of launching the app, viewing photos and loading Timeline.

The update is similar to the one done for iOS in August. Previously, Facebook’s mobile applications were basically HTML5 sites within the frame of a native app. That approach made it possible to release daily updates without requiring users to download a new version and helped the company scale its mobile offering across different devices during a period of rapid growth. But the user experience suffered because the app was so slow. This has become more pronounced as other mobile apps, built natively, have greatly improved. Now Facebook can be on par with other apps and continue to make changes to improve speed.

“The infrastructure in place will let us continue to make the app even faster, smoother, and feature-rich,” engineer Frank Qixing DU said in a note on the Facebook Engineering page.

Photo viewing is a particular area of focus since it’s so core to the experience of the social network. With Facebook for Android 2.0, when users tap on a photo, it will open more quickly and they can scroll through photo albums without losing their place in News Feed. Facebook says it has improved speed 2x in this area. Liking and commenting is more efficient, too, and the company says that Timeline loads faster and the app overall opens more quickly than in the past.

These changes will make browsing Facebook more enjoyable for users, increasing the amount of time they spend using the app and making them more likely to view and interact with page posts, app stories and ads.

The new version will be available for download later today in the Google Play Store.

Facebook brings share button to mobile touch site

Facebook is testing a share button on its mobile touch site,, we’ve found. Along with this are more prominent Like and comment buttons.

[Update 11/14/12 12:47 PM PT - A Facebook spokesperson confirms to us that they have begun a slow rollout out the share feature.]

The share button is one of the most commonly requested features for Facebook’s mobile apps. When we asked about it in August, the company said there was no technical hurdle that made a share button difficult to implement on mobile. Facebook simply never made it a priority. Now it appears to be in testing on the mobile web, which means it could come to the native iOS and Android apps soon. [Updated 11/15/12 - This happened today.]

Page owners are likely to see an increase in shares once the feature rolls out to all mobile users. This will help their posts get additional reach. The share button is also an additional way that users can engage with a Promoted Post or Page Post Ad in the mobile feed. The share option appears as a large button in News Feed and as a smaller call to action when users click to view a post, as seen below. From what we’ve seen, the share button does not appear on every post but it’s unclear whether or not this is a bug. There does not seem to be any pattern to whether a share button appears on post. The type of post or privacy settings may have something to do with it.

Previously, the only share option available on mobile was for links and the button only appeared when users viewed a site in the Facebook browser and clicked for more options in the top right corner. There was no way for users to quickly share a photo, status update or other posts.

When users tap the share button, they are taken to a dialog that previews the item they’re about to share and allows them to add a comment or change their privacy settings for the post.

Facebook updates SDK for Android, launches Android Dev Center

Facebook today released its latest SDK for Android and a new Android Dev Center with resources for building successful social apps.

The Android SDK now includes native UI controls that Facebook recently began offering for iOS. These pre-built user interface components allow developers to begin from a standard template rather than building each from scratch. For example, Friend Picker lets people tag friends in an Open Graph action or find their friends who have installed an app, Places Picker shows nearby places for checking in, and Profile Picture control shows the profile picture for any Facebook user, page or place. Login controls offer a uniform way to manage user identity and app permissions. These tools serve to save developers time and to create consistent experiences for users across different mobile apps.

Like its iOS counterpart, the new SDK for Android includes improved session management and API support for developers. There are also tools for measuring clicks and installs from Facebook’s new mobile app ads.

Developers can visit the Android Dev Center to download the latest SDK and get information about building apps on Facebook’s mobile platform.

Facebook’s Talktime program in India pays new mobile users in calling credit

Facebook has launched a program in India called Talktime, which gives 50 Rupees (almost $1) in calling credits to users who sign up for Facebook on their mobile devices. Users also get an additional 50 Rupees for every user they refer who signs up to Facebook with a mobile device.

An Inside Facebook reader first tipped us to a story about Talktime posted on Machine Happy. A Facebook spokesperson has since confirmed the program to TechCrunch with the following statment:

“We partner with a number of telecoms companies around the world, many of whom offer incentives for their customers to use Facebook, such as zero rating mobile Internet access to the service. This test is another such initiative.”

Facebook’s Talktime initiative in India is in line with the social network’s strategy in territories where most users are likely to access Facebook through their phones. The company says it had 59 million MAU in India in June, an increase of 84 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

Facebook Head of Mobile Partnerships Emily White said in June that 30 percent of users in India are now registering for the site through mobile phones. It’s likely these users are among those who never visit Facebook on desktop. Most are using the Facebook for Every Phone App, a native mobile app compatible with more than 3,600 different Java-enabled feature phones. An analysis using the Facebook ad tool suggests that about 35 percent of India’s active users are feature phone users and about 17 percent are smartphone or tablet users.

Headlines from Inside Mobile Apps’ WWDC 2012 coverage

Here’s a convenient spot to find all Inside Mobile Apps’ coverage of Apple’s developer conference in San Francisco this week. This is the first WWDC since the passing of Steve Jobs.

Day one kicked off with a keynote featuring current CEO Tim Cook, VP of Mac Software Engineering Craig Federighi and Senior VP of iOS Software Scott Forstall.

More as the conference progresses.

LifeStreet enters the mobile advertising fray with $66 million in new funding

After quietly entering the mobile advertising market, Facebook in-app advertising service LifeStreet Media is now looking to become a major player in the industry. The company announced today it has raised $66 million in new funding from Nautic Ventures in order to help it continue its mobile expansion plans.

Founded in 2005, the San Carlos-based company is one of the biggest in-app advertising services on Facebook, counting Zynga, Big Fish Games and Classmates among its clients. The company and now reaches over 350 million unique users every month on Facebook, iOS and Android. According to LifeStreet’s CEO and co-founder Mitchell Weisman, the mobile portion of those users is growing rapidly.

Although already successful on Facebook, LifeStreet faces some stiff competition in the mobile advertising space. There are established players like Google’s AdMob, Apple’s iAd, ValueClick owned Greystripe and the newly public Millennial Media to contend with. There are also well-funded independents like InMobi, which is backed with $200 million from Japanese conglomerate Softbank, and JumpTap which has raised $94 million in total. The company will also been going head-to-head against more niche service companies like PlayHaven and Chartboost.

Facebook’s Year in Mobile: Seeking Ubiquity on Devices, and in Apps Too

Central to the next era in Facebook’s growth, the company’s mobile team took a much more visible role this year with the launch of Places, deals with hundreds of carriers, and a bid to become an integral social layer for mobile experiences the way it is becoming on the web.

It more than doubled the number of mobile users from 100 million in February to 200 million in November. And mobile users are Facebook’s best customers, since they’re twice as active as others.

The team was just around 20 people at the end of 2009 but it’s since grown and become subdivided into different teams focused on native clients, the mobile platform (the “platmobile” team), partnerships and other stealth projects. The company also poached a capable head of mobile products from Google, Erick Tseng, who had shepherded the search giant’s first branded phone, the Nexus One, from conceptualization to launch in just under a year.

Facebook’s strategy this year could probably be broken down in three ways: 1) universal access to Facebook on all mobile devices 2) ubiquity of the Facebook platform in third-party mobile apps and 3) new features like location that take advantage of the unique capabilities of mobile phones.

Facebook Makes a Platform Play with Single Sign-on and More: Beyond standalone apps, the most important part of Facebook’s strategy is its effort to become embedded into every mobile experience the way it is becoming on the desktop web. A key part of that is single sign-on, which lets people log into Facebook once in an app, not every time they use it. This is the start of helping Facebook understand who uses which mobile apps, which could lead to an interesting social solution for app discovery — a problem plaguing developers.

The company launched fresh SDKs for iOS and Android this year, which make it easy for mobile developers to make calls to the new Graph API.

Facebook needs to successfully migrate with its biggest platform companies onto mobile devices or risk being left out of virtual goods and ad revenue. Zynga, Electronic Arts’ Playfish and Playdom, have been hungry for a way to diversify off the platform, where user acquisition costs have risen after the company crippled viral channels this year. Android and iOS present opportunities to lessen dependence on Facebook. Plus, smartphone market penetration is now large enough that there are seven and eight-digit Farmville-sized audiences to be had.

Reaching Out to the Developing World with ’0′: Unlike smaller companies, which usually wrestle with the build-for-iPhone versus Android decision, Facebook must be accessible to all devices from the lowliest feature phone to the newest generation of Apple devices.

The company’s growth hinges upon it. Facebook went from 250 million to 500 million users in 12 months. But since crossing the half a billion user mark in July, the service has only grown by roughly 75 million users in a significant slowdown, according to InsideFacebook data. That’s because the low-hanging fruit in North America and Western Europe is largely gone. The company needs to be successful in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, where access to mobile broadband often outstrips fixed-line broadband access.

To bring users from developing countries on board, Facebook launched a free, low-bandwidth version of the site called ’0′ in May with more than 50 carriers. Carriers use free access to Facebook to lure subscribers into paying for data plans, while Facebook uses the deals to grow in markets where phones are the primary access point to the web.

Although the company hasn’t released statistics on 0′s growth, Facebook’s fastest-growing markets over the last 12 months include India, the Philippines, Turkey and Indonesia — all countries where 0 was launched. South Korea and Russia, both strategic markets Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned and that the company secured mobile deals in over the past six months, have also more than quadrupled in 2010.

Parity across Android, iOS: The company, which had always prioritized the iPhone since the launch of its first native app two years ago, is now treating Android and iOS like equals. New features for both devices will come out at the same time, instead of iPhone first, Android second. Facebook, like the rest of the mobile developer community, has taken note that Android is surpassing the iPhone in market share with 300,000 device activations a day this month.

Location, Location, Location: It took awhile, but Facebook finally launched location-sharing this fall. Initially, we had heard the product was more forward-thinking and differentiated from other location products. But it was scrapped before the f8 developer conference in April and redesigned around the more conservative and familiar “check-in” paradigm, where users temporarily share their location.

Facebook has emphasized that location is another platform play and is not threatening to companies like Foursquare and Loopt, but it has almost certainly slowed their growth trajectory. The company has not released statistics on Places, but we believe the number of active users is at least 10 times the size of the next largest location-sharing product.

Just three months after Places launched, the company launched local Deals with an easy, self-service way for businesses to offer discounts to Facebook users who check-in. Facebook poached rising star and ad executive Emily White from Google to be senior director of local and run the sales side of the service.

Possibilities for 2011:

That “Facebook Phone”? Facebook has adamantly denied that it is building a phone, but we wouldn’t rule out a partnership with a handset manufacturer to design a deeply social phone. The company risks alienating device makers and partners with a Facebook-branded phone. But the company’s platform strategy is more cornered on mobile devices compared to the web right now.

Think of it this way. If Android and iOS are leading the way among smartphone platforms, Facebook will have to go through two not-entirely-friendly entities to get to the end consumer. For example, if it wanted to extend Credits to mobile apps, it would have problems since Apple’s current terms of service don’t allow for cross-game currencies. Plus, Apple already takes a 30 percent cut of payments processed through its In App Payments API. That said, the open nature of Android leaves opportunities for Facebook even without help from the search giant.

From a product perspective, the iPhone and Android devices are far from where they could be in terms of social features. Your contacts list, for example, could be like a chat list and show whether your friends are busy or available, their last status update or where they last checked in. It would be ranked by who you most often interact with, and if you clicked on a name, it would lead to their profile page and wall with options to message or call them. A single Messages app could consolidate email, SMS and chat like it does on the web.

Maps would automatically overlay friends’ locations. The phone’s camera and video recorder could let you upload directly to Facebook. A photos app would show off a stream of friends’ photos in addition to your own. One of the home screens would be the news feed. Maybe there would be a persistent like button wherever you go in the phone.

A Facebook mobile app store could have personalized rankings with the apps most downloaded or used by friends. You could update your phone number once, and it would be fresh on both Facebook and in your friends’ devices. They could extend the partnership with Skype and offer interesting ways of calling or video-chatting with friends that are logged in. These are all hypothetical, but interesting, possibilities.

Strengthening the Platform Play: Single sign-on is just a start, but Facebook will probably do more to enable the kind of virality the original platform unleashed. Short of having a branded device, Facebook could build ways for users to discover which mobile apps their friends are using — perhaps within the standalone mobile app or on Places functionality is still somewhat limited as the search and write APIs, which let you pull up nearby places and send check-ins to Facebook, only came out recently. Third-party developers also don’t yet have access to pull Facebook Deals into their location apps, or the ability to create Groups.

An iPad App: Mark Zuckerberg said the company was working on this six months ago, but we have yet to see one almost a year after Apple launched the tablet. We’ve heard prototypes have a substantially different interface than the web and really delve into how the company thinks about the future of interaction on touchscreen devices. (See this essay for how the company thinks about touch interfaces.)

Renewals of the Facebook ’0′ Deals: Many of the ’0′ deals will probably be renewed in some fashion this year while new carriers in other markets will come on-board. We don’t have statistics yet on how the program is faring, but look for them early in the new year.

Advertising in Mobile Apps: This is a long shot, since Zuckerberg and Tseng said in November that the company wasn’t interested in mobile advertising in the short-term. Indeed, banner ads seem like a poor experience for mobile devices, since people use them when they’re on the go and don’t have time to segue into marketer’s website or Page. If the company was going to do brand advertising, it would be hard-pressed to do it in a non-invasive way. Facebook could more deeply integrate local advertising with Deals for Places; maybe there could be more visible options to “like” Places and subscribe to and receive push notifications on nearby deals.

Experimentation with Payments: With near-field communications coming in the Gingerbread update of Android and possibly on the next iPhone, Facebook has an interesting opportunity to experiment with mobile payments. In their spare time, a handful of developers hacked together a product called Presence that lets people “check-in” to real places using an RFID tag. One could imagine equipping local businesses with RFID tags that Facebook users can tap to check in or pay with Credits.

Facebook Confirms New Android App

The Google-led Android mobile operating system is getting a new Facebook application today, according to a number of Android-focused blogs. Facebook has been planning a mobile-themed event for this evening, so it appears word got out early. While I’m not currently seeing the app in the Android Market app store, screenshots (including the ones you see here) are already public. Update: You can find it on Facebook here, although it still isn’t showing up in the Market.

facebook for android

Facebook has confirmed the launch of the new app with us. Here’s what the official blurb about the app says, according to Android Guys:

Facebook for Android™ makes it easy to stay connected and share information with friends. You can share status updates from your home screen, check out your news feed, look at your friends’ walls and user info. Share photos from your phone and can even look up up to 125 friends’ phone numbers from the home screen.

We’ll be taking a closer look at it tonight.

Rumors have been going around for months about a Facebook-Android app; some have wondered about the partnership given the competitive positions of Google and Facebook.

Meanwhile, Facebook has also been upping its mobile effort. Last week, it released Facebook Connect for mobile web services — and soon, apps. Through Connect, third parties will be able to access user data from Facebook and enable two-way interactions so users can communicate back to the site. At least one third party, social game developer Playfish, has had their own, unofficial implementation of Connect for months.

Facebook has also been building apps for a wide variety of phones and operating systems, including for Nokia’s N97 and the extremely popular iPhone application.

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