Commentary

Facebook Proves Mobile-First Strategy -- As Long As You Ditch Banners And Buttons

A statistic that is impossible to ignore is always good. Today, the people that are trying to convince everyone in their organisation they should be "mobile first" have theirs. Two out of every three ad dollars Facebook makes come from mobile. There it is, plain and simple.

There may also be a more subtle message there, which points to the conundrum everyone has with mobile. Will I be pushing on an open door? Or will I be an unwelcome intruder on a consumer's most personal device?

If Facebook is anything to go by -- and why wouldn't it be -- the clue is to be in the main part of the action. You can try banners and buttons but they're not great for response on desktop, so why should people warm up to them on a small screen.

I've said all along that Facebook's algorithm tweak was designed to dial down organic reach and ensure that brands had to promote posts to get noticed -- and this was done very much with mobile top-of-mind. How else was Facebook going to monetise the mobile screen, other than sponsored posts?

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So clearly, success lies in advertising formats that allow brands to be in the mix and not at the side trying to grab attention through a banner or button. No wonder mobile video advertising spend is trebling year-on-year in the UK -- and one can only imagine that the same fate awaits mobile native content advertising. 

It's very interesting to chat with people from frontier markets about mobile because to them, the fact we live in a mobile-first world is blindingly obvious. There never was a desktop-first attitude in markets where fixed-line broadband and computers are a rarity. In markets that have skipped a generation straight to mobile, the issues we face moving from print to desktop to mobile just don't apply. Their customers are on mobile, they transact on mobile -- so that's where they have to be.

I was chatting to marketers who work across Central America, East Africa and parts of Asia last night, and this theme of mobile first makes them chuckle because they never had a choice and they find it hard to see why it is not a "no brainer" for developed markets. 

One marketer who has upped sticks from Europe to work in Tanzania recounted a story of going to a very small village that had no electricity and so had been given a solar panel by a charity. He expected it to be hooked up to a fridge or a string of light bulbs but instead found it was charging up a dozen or so smartphones. Although there was no electricity, the phones got a good enough signal to communicate with friends and relatives in other villages as well as order goods through mcommerce which, he was surprised to see, was evidently second nature to the villagers.

So it may well not have needed proving, but in case any marketer out there needs a handy statistic to roll out the next time someone questions the organisation being mobile-first, the figure that is impossible to ignore -- that two-thirds of Facebook revenues coming from the small screen should seal any argument.

Mobile-first is the order of the day -- and the way to succeed is to look beyond to display to be in the mix, on the screen. If you adopt mobile first but then put users second, you will have a very short, sharp wake-up call.

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