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Love or hate Facebook? Mobile marketers cannot make up their minds

While Facebook is an increasingly important player in mobile advertising, there are rumblings of dissatisfaction from some marketers and a Twitter IPO is in the offing, raising the question: Can the social giant keep the good times rolling?

Mobile represented 49 percent of Facebook?s advertising revenue in the third quarter, up from 41 percent in the previous quarter. However, the social network needs to do a better job meeting marketers? needs and boosting traction with mobile users to keep the momentum going.

?We reached a new milestone as a mobile company,? said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, Menlo Park, CA, in a conference call with analysts to discuss the results. ?Now 49 percent of our revenue comes from mobile and 48 percent of the people who use Facebook on any given day are only accessing it from mobile.

?That?s almost half of people only using Facebook from their phones,? he said. ?And that?s a pretty incredible sign of how Facebook has evolved over the last year.?

Where is the value?
Facebook reported yesterday that overall, revenue from advertising totaled $1.80 billion, a 66 percent increase from the same quarter last year.

Other results from the third quarter include that the average number of monthly active users on mobile was 874 million, up 45 percent. Mobile daily active users averaged 507 million.

Overall, Facebook?s average number of monthly active users was 1.19 billion.

Facebook?s mobile ad sales have been quickly growing over the past year, with the company expected to have a 16 percent share of overall mobile ad revenue this year while Google is expected to own approximately half of the market.

While Facebook is quickly growing and continues to ramp up its mobile strategy, there are signs that marketers may not be entirely pleased with the results.

New research from Forrester shows that Facebook is failing marketers, with business leaders less satisfied with the social network than any other digital tool.

In a survey of 395 marketers and business executives, Facebook ranks at the bottom of a list of 13 marketing channels in terms of delivering business value.

According to Forrester, marketers' dissatisfaction stems from Facebook lack of focus on driving genuine engagement for marketers and shortcomings in ad targeting and dynamic ad units.

If Facebook does not address these issues, it risks a drop in ad spend earmarked for the social network, per Forrester.

Money talks
Not everyone agrees that Facebook is slacking in advertising, especially when it comes to mobile.

?Marketers vote with their wallets and the growing investments we?re seeing in Facebook mobile certainly seem like a major vote in confidence,? said Josh Dreller, Chicago-based director of marketing research at Kenshoo Social, San Francisco.

?The biggest challenge for any mobile marketing platform is simply to keep up with consumer trends with three screens and other emerging devices,? he said. ?However, Facebook has shown that they?ve been able to not just stay at the forefront of consumer behavior but also lead and change it.

?If any company is going to fall behind in this area, it?s hard to believe that it?s going to be Facebook.?

BlackBerry boost
In order to grow its mobile advertising revenues more, Facebook needs to work on gaining more traction with mobile users. Facebook?s recent acquisition of Onavo points to one way the social network is trying to accomplish this.

Onavo offers compression technology that will enable Facebook to offer a wide array of potentially data-hogging content in a more cost-efficient manner for users.

Recent reports suggest that another way Facebook may be considering improving its traction is by acquiring BlackBerry, whose BBM messaging platform is considered top-notch.

?Facebook needs to expand its role in the mobile user experience, basically taking more and more of the users time on the mobile device, think photos and imaging, potentially VoIP on Facebook, may be video telephony on Facebook and messaging where BBM could play a part,? said Nick Spencer, London-based senior practice director for mobile devices, applications and content at ABI Research. ?Effectively the platform moves from the device OS/UI, to a web based Facebook platform.

?Twitter has strong user engagement and competes with Facebook for frequency of use and eyeball time, one of the few that do,? he said.

?A quality IM app like BBM would help Facebook compete better in this messaging frequency area.?

New revenue stream
Some of the ways that Facebook is attempting to build out its mobile advertising offerings include the recent announcement video ads for the mobile newsfeed. The company also recently gave advertisers the ability to bid for mobile app ads on a cost per click basis for the first time.

Additionally, Facebook launched a new retargeting tool that will allow retailers to show ads to people who have visited their Web sites or mobile apps that is distinct from Facebook's FBX ad exchange.

The company is also expected to bring its programmatic solution FBX into mobile in the coming months, which could give mobile sales a significant boost.

One potential area of future growth in mobile advertising for Facebook is Instagram, which will launch sponsored images and videos in the near future.

Twitter?s IPO
Twitter upcoming initial public offering could be good news or bad news for Facebook, depending on how you look at it.

On the one hand, if the IPO is successful, Twitter will suddenly have a lot of capital to invest further bolstering its mobile offering. Twitter recently set the price range for its IPO at $17 to $20 a share, valuing the company at $11.1 billion.

On the other hand, Twitter?s IPO could be good news for Facebook by bringing more attention to the quickly growing mobile social space.

One area where Facebook is playing, but would like to do better is in attracting the big budgets advertisers allocate for their branding campaigns.

Facebook?s enhanced targeting capabilities were developed with enhancing branding opportunities in mind.

However, some have suggested that Twitter has the better branding platform for mobile because it is well positioned to take advantage of real-time opportunities to drive engagements for brands.

For example, Twitter is building out its TV-oriented offerings so brands can leverage the social conversation happening around the broadcast programs they are advertising in.

?The appetite for good mobile marketing inventory is tremendous and there is plenty of room for more players without having to cannibalize budgets from any source,? said Kenshoo?s Mr. Dreller said.

?Thus, having more players in the mobile social space may actually bring new dollars to Facebook because it demonstrates there?s a robust, viable channel here that requires dedicated expertise, head count, and tools,? he said.

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