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The Potentially Divergent Paths for Facebook and Twitter Mobile Ads

Mobile ads, particularly app install and direct response ads, have become a big business for Facebook and are likely to become a big business for Twitter very soon. Much of the focus has been on the app install business and how large that line of business can become. While I think the app install market will be huge for both companies, I think there are some things that Twitter can do more easily than Facebook when it comes to the broad direct response category on mobile.

My First Experience Clicking on a Twitter Ad

I had my first interaction with a Twitter direct response ad about a week ago. It was a really clean experience. It was an ad for an upcoming General Assembly class. I clicked on the link and it took me immediately to a landing page where Twitter offered to pass my email address to the brand so they could follow up. I clicked yes and a few minutes later I got a ping back from GA telling me more about the class and offering me a way to sign up for the class. It was a really clean experience – almost no friction and the loop was closed on email, where it’s easy for me to manage the next steps.

As soon as I went through that experience, I wondered whether I would have been willing to go through the same flow on Facebook. I don’t think I would have felt comfortable doing that on Facebook. Over time, my relationship with Facebook has been one where the platform, app developers, and advertisers seem to aggressively want my contact info and personal details for ends that are unclear to me. In a lot of ways, that feeling (which is hard to describe in concrete ways), is why I have scaled back some of my Facebook usage in favor of Twitter.

Over time, I have become very comfortable sharing my interests with Twitter both explicitly by choosing to follow certain brands and people and implicitly by what I retweet and what I click. Twitter has all of that data around what gets my attention. And, to date, Twitter has made me feel good about continuing to share and create that data on their platform as they have not aggressively used it for marketing purposes.

The Difference Between Social Relationships and Interests

Facebook has clearly done a great job in driving mobile install ads. They know a lot about which apps I use on their platform, which Facebook Connect enabled sites and services I use, what content I share and like, and with whom I chat. That is a lot of data about my social interests. And that, combined with a platform with insanely high daily engagement, provides a really robust opportunity for advertisers to target me based on my social relationships and activities. This will continue to be a big business for Facebook so long as they continue to maintain high daily usage, regardless of whether I’m actively or passively sharing my interests with them. The reach they offer advertisers on mobile is and will remain a huge draw.

I have a feeling that Twitter’s strength in mobile direct response will not be as much around the social connections that I have with my followers and those who I follow. I think it will be much more around using Twitter’s data around my interests and (most importantly) my current interests to show me offers that are relevant to me. I think these interest-based ads will attract a different kind of advertiser looking for a different kind of interaction beyond app installs. It could be for advertisers looking to grow email lists by getting new subscribers, call-to-action offers to buy stuff, the opportunity to sign up for an in-person event, and lots of other things beyond driving app store installs.

Feel free to leave a comment below or send me your thoughts on Twitter @chudson.

Comments (4) on "The Potentially Divergent Paths for Facebook and Twitter Mobile Ads"

  1. I think you’re on to something Charles – great analysis. This more-Twitter-less-FB trend is big in my world – especially among my young, hip friends, they’ve ALL migrated away from FB, largely because of trust issues.

  2. This evaluation is applicable to every ‘social’ network platform that starts monetizing using ads. How and what type of ads work on Instagram will be very different from what works on say Tinder, Snapchat, Pandora or Pinterest.

    An additional variable is how their data and targetting can be leveraged on the mobile ad networks that both companies are building out. While Twitter + Mopub has a ready publisher network to display ads on, I am not convinced users would be happy to see their twitter profile being targetted on other apps. So would DR work in this case? As you have outlined, their user intent data cant be leveraged to show app install ads in the external network.

    FB still needs to build a publisher network (or perhaps will acquire a company to get it Inmobi? Nexage? Smaato?). However, FB has a better chance to continue to do mobile app install ads using their user profile data.

    Both platforms have a unique opportunity to take identity targetting across the mobile world, and regardless of what data they leverage, their ability to precision target is going to be a big change in mobile advertising as whole. This will leapfrog the Millenial Media, Admobs and iAds of the ecosystem.

  3. This is a great comment and I agree – every network has to find its own native ad unit that makes sense given its own usage modeal and audience. I think FB is going to stick with mobile install ads for awhile as they work and are easy.

  4. This will continue to be a big business for Facebook so long as they continue to maintain high daily usage, regardless of whether I’m actively or passively sharing my interests with them. The reach they offer advertisers on mobile is and will remain a huge draw.

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