Commentary

Are You Failing Your Facebook Fans On Mobile?

Last year, Forrester predicted that U.S. brands will spend $2.7B on their social media marketing efforts by the end of 2013, with that number growing to $5B by 2016. And with one in five of all Internet clicks in the U.S. happening on Facebook, brands are taking the cultivation and engagement of their fan base on Facebook seriously. But unless brands wake up to their Facebook “mobile problem,” they will waste significant marketing dollars as well as audience clicks.

The mobile problem I’m talking about is, surprisingly, unrelated to Facebook mobile advertising. And it’s an issue that has yet to be widely discussed. Brands have been quietly struggling to engage with their Facebook fans who connect with them from a mobile device. We recently conducted a field review that illustrated that Facebook promotional apps on seven of the top ten most popular brand fan pages failed to successfully engage mobile fans.

In May of this year, comScore estimated there were 78M Facebook monthly mobile smartphone unique users in the U.S. And in July of this year, AdParlor research showed that mobile users exhibit great engagement: 63% “like” more posts than non-mobile users; they are 15 times more likely to click on an ad than desktop users; and fans coming from mobile comment are 22% more than desktop users. Brands should not waste time taking advantage of this large cohort of potentially engaged brand fans.

The most popular consumer (non-high tech) product brand pages on Facebook by number of fans (Likes) as listed by FanPageList.com are (in order) Coca-Cola, Disney, MTV, Converse, Starbucks, Red Bull, Oreo, Sony PlayStation, Skittles and Angry Birds. And yet it is apparent that half of these Facebook fan pages are not fully functional on mobile.

How do we know this? We reviewed the mobile Facebook app experience for all ten. Specifically, by experiencing each page as a fan, participating in the promotional apps, and sharing the experience with our friends via the Facebook newsfeed. If a click on that shared experience by a friend failed in the mobile newsfeed, the brand got a fail. Why is this important? Because a vast number of Facebook users are only reviewing their newsfeed on mobile phones. If the click doesn’t work, that means that the brand is failing to reach a legion of potential new fans to be gained via viral sharing -- the basis of  "word of mouth" sharing on Facebook.

Facebook apps offer one of the richest ways to engage fans on Facebook, and they are becoming ubiquitous. They might offer access to contests, sweepstakes, quizzes, content voting, video channels, Instagram channels, and more -- all without leaving the Facebook environment. Every major brand page is doing something in this area, from Coca Cola’s comedic “Page Creators” video series to Oreo’s “100th Birthday” app, which encourages fans to “show how you let your inner kid loose.” And yet, astonishingly, many of these apps cannot be accessed through the Facebook mobile newsfeed. And if they can be seen, they cannot be shared with friends of fans.

Why should brands care about this? How seriously should brands take this issue of mobile-aware branded apps? We have seen an increase of 350% in traffic to our apps from smartphones, between January and August 2012 -- a trend we fully expect to continue. Not allowing all those mobile fans the chance to enjoy branded apps --  even if it’s a pared down version of the app made suitable for the mobile experience -- is a huge missed opportunity for brands, and is a waste of marketing dollars.  

What should brands do? Brands need to prioritize mobile in all social marketing, particularly when investing in initiatives that seek to increase brand awareness -- as they are with branded apps. The easiest and most cost-effective solution to this problem begins at the app design phase. Brands need to ensure that apps are "optimized" for mobile users. And when I say "optimized" I mean going beyond simply being visible on these devices. Optimizing a branded app for mobile means considering the most pertinent aspects of a branded experience that make sense for a mobile fan’s context. For example, making the written content short and readable, the action buttons clear and obvious, and the steps to completion quick and clear.

Brands also need to energetically promote apps to their audience through their newsfeed, and amplify reach with mobile-friendly ad units like Sponsored Stories. Currently, fans can’t "find" promotional apps on the brand’s mobile fan page -- those app tiles aren’t (yet) available. So using promotional posts and Sponsored Stories will allow more fans and friends of fans to be reached.

If brands want to engage fans successfully on Facebook, they need to spend some time being a fan and thinking about how fans are using Facebook. Facebook fans like to consume every aspect of their Facebook newsfeed whether standing in line, hanging out, or watching TV -- a perfect time to catch their attention! Every branded experience promoted through Facebook should not only be visible to mobile fans, but delightful and easy to use.

In the time it took you to read this article (five minutes?) 215 Americans switched to a smartphone. Brands shouldn’t wait. Fans certainly aren’t.

Recommend