I just read some research touting the virtues of Facebook mobile ads. A lot of praise was being given to mobile being more cost effective, having higher click through rates, and producing more web traffic. Facebook of course is loving the attention and is promoting data of their own to convince people that all these things are true. The problem is, as impressive as these metrics are, they are not revealing whether or not the advertising is working.
Yes Mobile Has Value – But Is It Oversold?
I should disclose right now that I think mobile is tremendously important and everyone needs to be thinking about reaching the mobile audience. With that said, I want to introduce to you a concept known as “Fat Thumb.” The principle of Fat Thumb is mobile users click on things they do not intend to click on with great frequency. This is due to the nature of mobile navigation structures and the lack of precision that exists in the thumb.
Because of this, many mobile clicks are unintentional, resulting in elevated bounce rates, ghost traffic, or, at best, disinterested users. I should also clarify, “ghost traffic” results from clicks that are recorded by Facebook but are never recorded by the landing page. This often happens if a browser is terminated before it can trigger the tracking pixel on the page. This is not the only cause of ghost traffic, but it is one of the less suspicious ones.
Does Higher Really Mean Lower?
But now to the real meat of it. Because of fat thumb, there are more mobile clicks to be had, which means more supply and lower cost. There is also a higher click through rate. And mobile landing pages and websites, even if optimized, are still more complicated to conduct transactions on. So your conversion metrics are going to be lower on mobile, as a rule of thumb. (See what I did there?)
So the reason mobile is being viewed as a high performer may indeed simply be side effects caused by fat thumb. The big question is, dollar per dollar, is mobile spend producing better outcomes than desktop spend? And by outcomes, I don’t mean clicks, click rates, or web traffic. Outcomes are sales, donations, conversions, leads, or whatever your ultimate track-able goals are.
Always Look At the Bottom Line
There are some campaigns that I exclude mobile ads from, flat out. There are others where mobile is a good fit. And there are times where I create separate sub-campaigns for mobile users and desktop users because they do not respond to the same things, in the same ways, and for the same budgets. That’s another blog post.
The takeaways are these: Mobile advertising is not a replacement for desktop, it’s a different channel and requires different strategies. And do not buy into the hype without digging into the claims to examine whether or not the ads produce tangible results.