This week Facebook hosted f8, its now annual developer conference, and announced a number of major updates, news, and new features to the Facebook platform. With a theme of “Build. Grow. Monetize.” the event was primarily aimed at app developers, software engineers, and product managers, there were a number of important takeaways for marketers, both in terms of Facebook itself but also the digital marketing more broadly.

Facebook knows that mobile ad revenue will eventually be the core of their business so f8 was all about the mobile platform.

Zuckerberg started the event by announcing that Facebook was a mobile company. While the $375M they made in Q1 in mobile ad revenue was only 30% of their total ad revenue, they now have 1.01B monthly active users on mobile and they know this is where the market is going.

Zuckerberg then went on to announce a number of updates and features all around expanding distribution and reach of mobile applications. The Facebook platform used to be about social games for desktop like Farmville and Mafia Wars, but now the focus is entirely on mobile applications.

The real opportunity is not just ads on Facebook, but across the app ecosystem.

The real revenue opportunity for Facebook is being able to sell ads on mobile apps outside of Facebook. This is why they care so much about getting developers to build Facebook integrated apps. Zuckerberg announced the launch of their Facebook Audience Network at f8, which will allow app developers who build on apps using the platform to immediately offer banner ads, interstitials or native ad units – to Facebook’s 1M active advertisers, with the revenue shared between the developer and Facebook.

To get app developers on board, they have developed a number of mobile-specific tools and features.

– Apps are unbundling. So Facebook, via Parse, has developed AppLinks, a powerful way for developers to “deep link” directly into another application if they’re both installed on a users phone. So for example, if you open a Spotify link from the YouTube app, it could go straight to the Spotify app, without a lame web redirect.

– Developers now can offer a mobile “Like” button, to allow their users to promote the app on their user’s Facebook account.

– It’s hard to build on a constantly changing platform. So Zuckerberg made a two-year core API stability guarantee, which assures developers that key features like Login, Sharing, etc would hold steady. They even publicly changed their mantra to “Move Fast with Stable Infra(structure)” While a good start, developers will still need things like better API documentation (often light or missing) and consistency in the data returned from API calls for a fu

Getting distribution for mobile apps is still a major challenge and Facebook wants to solve it.

The Percolate team at f8 reported that the most popular breakout session was on using App Install Ads and App Engagement Ads to drive growth and usage. As Facebook themselves put it, “everyone who is building apps on mobile needs installs and we have the number one product out there for delivering that.”

Facebook is training developers to pay to get distribution for their mobile apps, and then selling ads on those mobile apps to advertisers.

Anonymity is making a comeback on the internet, and Facebook won’t take it laying down.

Ephemeral media like Snapchat and anonymous social networks like Secret have been taking off. It’s clear that Facebook has been tracking its rise, which in part a backlash to all the data Facebook allows apps to acquire, because in his keynote, Zuckerberg  admitted that he knows “a lot of people are scared of pressing [the ‘Login with Facebook’] button”.

Facebook is now starting to test the ability to log into an app anonymously. You’d still use your Facebook account, but you wouldn’t be sharing any data with the app creators. As a company notorious for encouraging users to share more and store all data in a single identity, this is a strong signal that anonymity is making a comeback.
Photo Credit: Mike Deerkoski