Facebook's mobile ads haven't been available to the masses for a full month yet, but early reporting by SocialCode, a Facebook Ads API partner, suggests that sponsored-story "like" ads that appear in mobile news feeds get more clicks than the same units placed elsewhere.
The research examined more than 7 million Facebook impressions served between June 8 and June 18 for 12 SocialCode clients who were running fan-acquisition campaigns, including about 242,000 mobile news-feed impressions that generated 1,911 clicks.
The click-through rate for mobile ads amounted to 0.79%, compared to the 0.148% average across all five placements studied: mobile, desktop news-feed only, desktop only (comprised mainly of right-rail ads), news-feed only (desktop and mobile) and the "control" group (uniform bids made across placements). The click-through rate for desktop-only news-feed ads falls roughly in the middle at 0.327%, according to SocialCode's data.
Effective CPMs for the mobile ads (which were bought on a cost-per-click basis, along with the other inventory in the research) were $7.51, compared to the $1.62 average across all five placements. SocialCode Chief Innovation Officer Addie Conner says the higher CPMs for mobile ads were largely due to the higher click-through rates they've been generating. She pointed to the fact that news-feed ads are less disruptive, since they're meant to blend into the user experience, to explain it.
"If you can make it an ad that users don't hate, it's actually extremely monetizable," said Ms. Conner, who noted that mobile inventory is still limited. She also said that it's possible that a substantial number of clicks on mobile ads come from users who are fumbling with their phone's key pads and clicked mistakenly, which would help explain why the "click-to-like" ratio -- or percentage of users who clicked on an ad who subsequently liked the post or fan page -- is lower than average for mobile.
The SocialCode results shouldn't surprise anyone; studies show display and search ads on smartphones generally have higher click-through rates than desktop ads. Twitter has also recently been crowing about the fact that engagement rates for its mobile promoted tweets are higher than on desktop clients.
However, there's also the argument that click-through rates aren't really the right metric to be looking at anyway, since a recent study from the startup Pretarget and ComScore shows the correlation between that click and a conversion is virtually nonexistent.
Even if mobile ads are non-disruptive and more native to the user experience, causing users to click on them more, there's also still the question of whether Facebook can get the frequency right. In other words, even if the ads work, can Facebook deliver enough of them to make serious money without cluttering up mobile users' news feeds with sponsored stories?