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Facebook to put mobile-first experiences at the core of its strategy

Facebook?s mobile future looks bright, with the social network reporting yesterday that mobile advertising revenue continues to grow and represented approximately 23 percent of overall advertising revenue for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2012, up from 14 percent in the third quarter.

With the number of mobile active users still growing at a healthy pace and daily mobile users outnumber Web users for the first time, there is significant opportunity left for Facebook and marketers to take mobile social advertising to even bigger heights. One way that Facebook will look to build an even strong mobile presence this year is with new mobile-first experiences.

?A lot of what we had to do last year was simply improve our mobile development process,? said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, in a conference call with analysts to discuss the results. ?Now we are there.

?So, now, the next thing we are going to do is get really good at building new mobile first experiences,? he said.

?That is going to be a big theme for us this year. If we do it well, we should be able to bring even more relevant content to users.?

A strong foundation
Pointing to the challenges Facebook faced last year as mobile use grew quickly, Mr. Zuckerberg said a strong foundation is now in place to meet continuing growth in mobile.

For example, in December Facebook released a new version of Facebook for Android that brings greater stability and ease of use to the user experience.

?More people are using Facebook on mobile everyday than on desktop,? Mr. Zuckerberg said.

?This was challenging for us to navigate because we started off the year with apps that weren?t as high quality as we wanted,? he said. ?Now we are coming out of the year with a strong foundation and a lot of momentum.

?Today there is a no argument ? Facebook is a mobile company.?

The social network giant reported that the number of monthly active mobile users continues to grow and was up 57 percent as of Dec. 31, 2012, for a total of 680 while mobile daily active users exceeded Web daily active users for the first time in the fourth quarter. The growth in mobile users outpaced overall growth which was up 25 percent for a total of 1.06 billion.

The overall number of daily active users totaled 618 million for December, up 28 percent year-over-year.

Overall, Facebook?s revenue totaled $1.585 billion in the quarter, up 40 percent. Revenue from advertising totaled $1.33 billion, representing 84 percent of total revenue and a 41 percent increase from the same quarter last year.

Room for growth
The growth in mobile advertising revenues that Facebook is experiencing suggests brands are beginning recognizing the opportunities that exist in leveraging mobile social to market to an audience. However, there is still room for a lot more growth in mobile if Facebook makes the right moves.

?It's a great start,? said Roger Katz, CEO of Friend2Friend. ?However, there is still a long way for Facebook to go to really unlock the potential of mobile advertising.

?Facebook has the largest population of connected users online, and with that a mountain of data that could be potentially mined for ad targeting,? he said. ?Facebook today is just scratching the surface of the potential.

?Google, by comparison, has experienced enormous success by taking advantage of the fact that the mobile phone knows more about you, and where you are, then your laptop ? most specifically your location ? and this opens up a world of advertising targeting that Facebook isn't serving.?

Unique mobile experiences
Further growth in Facebook mobile advertising is expected as brands continue to fine tune their mobile social strategies. For example, Hyundai and its agency Innocean worked closely with Facebook to develop a new campaign designed with mobile users in mind for the Super Bowl game on Feb. 3.

Since mobile users are typically in a different mindset than desktop users, it is key that marketers create different strategies, one way for marketers to ensure their mobile Facebook campaigns are effective is to create separate, unique mobile strategies.

?This is an area where brands are unquestionably under-serving their users,? Mr. Katz said. ?We conducted research in November that showed 7 out of 10 of the top brands launched Facebook-centered campaigns that simply didn't work for mobile fans leaving all those fans out in the cold.

?Until brands become properly mobile-aware, they will be ignoring a huge cohort of Facebook fans," he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York