Are Facebook mobile ads working for you? Hmmm not many people “see” them…

Just last month, Hubspot (a really very clever company) reported on data from 3 of Facebook’s biggest ads API partners that mobile Sponsored Stories were generating more than 13 times the click-through rates of all Facebook desktop ads. Compelling as that data may have been, it was also some pretty early data, considering Facebook had launched the ability to purchase mobile-only ads just 2 weeks before. Great for mobile marketing.

But a study conducted by EyeTrackShop, has just analyzed ads with various placements surrounded by identical content on a desktop, an iPhone, and an iPad. The study revealed that iPhone users (and, by extension, other smartphone users) were the least likely to see ads on Facebook, with only a 3% to 13% chance of being seen if they were located ‘below the fold.

 Hmmm not so great for mobile marketing…. at least not on Facebook.

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So why do desktop ads get more visibility than their mobile counterparts? According to EyeTrackShop, it’s because desktop ads are located in fixed positions, which gives them a better chance of getting seen. The study even found that Facebook ads were actually the second thing desktop users looked at on Facebook, and that the performance of these ads had improved since Facebook introduced timeline. Mobile ads, on the other hand, were seen by fewer people, for less time, and had significantly lower recall.

Okay — so we know that Facebook ads on smartphones are getting less visibility than desktop ads. But wasn’t there a third test subject involved in this study? So how did the iPad ads fare?

Even better than desktop ads, in fact! EyeTrackShop reports that ads served on the iPad were seen by 18% more people. Those people even spent 29% longer looking at them and recalled the ads at a level similar to desktop/web ads.

So here’s the thing. From this data, you’d infer that your ads would get the most visibility on tablets and the least visibility on smartphones, right? So maybe you’d decide to purchase Facebook ads just for tablets and desktops. The problem is, while you can purchase mobile-only ads, you currently can’t purchase only tablet/iPad ads.Unlike with Google or Admob and many others selling mobile advertising space.

In other words, ads that get served on tablets are lumped in with smartphones in the mobile category of Facebook’s advertising platform. So while the data from EyeTrackShop’s study is interesting, Facebook doesn’t allow you to take much action as a result. Not yet, anyway.

Furthermore, remember that this study is only reporting on the visibility — not the click-through rates — of Facebook ads. So while it’s good to know the difference between your Facebook ads’ visibility from screen to screen, it’s important to recognize that visibility and eliciting action are two separate things.

So while smartphone ads may have the least impressive visibility, if they’re still generating 13x the clicks of desktop ads, who cares?

The only true way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your Facebook ad spend is to conduct your own tests and closely monitor your analytics. If your desktop ads are performing well, but your mobile ads are floundering, mobile might not be the best investment for you regardless. Oh yeah, and cross your fingers for some smarter, tablet-only ad targeting from Facebook 😉

We are hoping so as we are going to be using Facebook ads to help the viralability of our new platform for retro mobile games you can brand / make yourself. It’s called massmob – or Gosomo… watch this space 😉
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