Why you should be looking at Facebook’s Audience Network
If you haven't started using Facebook's in-app advertising network, it might be time to hop on board. Columnist Andrew Waber explains how FAN is improving performance and expanding the reach of advertisers.
Just a few months ago, Facebook announced that its Audience Network was on track for a $1 billion annual run rate. Pretty impressive for an inventory source that’s less than two years old, and reflective of the degree to which Facebook Audience Network (FAN) is transforming the mobile advertising landscape, thanks to its focus on native ads.
In a study Facebook released in early April 2016, researchers saw a 10x year-over-year increase in FAN-enabled apps using native formats, and 83 percent of all Audience Network inventory is now going to native, as compared to banner formats. Perhaps most importantly, earlier this year Facebook expanded FAN to mobile web inventory — dramatically broadening its reach.
The corresponding performance and the larger reach are responsible for the high level of demand, and they show why advertisers should view FAN as a critical mobile inventory source going forward.
Recently, as part of my work at Nanigans, I examined FAN-specific performance across 30 of our top-spending mobile app install-focused advertisers between January 1 and March 30, 2016. These aggregate figures were then compared to those same advertisers’ performance solely on Facebook’s news feed over the same period.
The results (registration required) showed that FAN placements commanded roughly 16 percent of total budgets but drove 21 percent of installs. In terms of raw increases, the FAN placements boosted total install numbers by 26 percent.
Needless to say, this is a huge asset to these advertisers, as the ability to extend their proven Facebook targeting to properties outside of Facebook maximizes the impact of their budgets.
One of the initial hesitancies from online marketers regarding Audience Network is the lack of control. The murky nature of the RTB (real-time bidding) landscape meant that advertisers, particularly over the last couple of years, have rightfully demanded greater transparency and power over where their ads are shown.
With FAN, much of that control goes away. Turning on Audience Network is essentially just a check box; Facebook determines where your ad is shown; and while you can collect performance data, you don’t know where those ads were actually placed.
The trade-off, as evidenced by those earlier install figures, is that Facebook is very good at targeting users who collectively perform similarly or better within the same audience you are targeting in the news feed. As part of that earlier study, FAN-specific CTRs, CPIs and CPMs collectively outperformed their news feed counterparts.
Additionally, the native ad format means that you generally know how the ad is going to look to users — with the same creative and call-to-action features that appear on Facebook. As seen below, the ads themselves have a distinctly “Facebooky” form factor, separating themselves from the kinds of ads typically seen on mobile.
The use cases for Facebook Audience Network
While the vast majority of advertisers using Nanigans have launched FAN-enabled campaigns, mobile app install advertisers were among the first, particularly for their acquisition campaigns. With a mission to continually drive installs, these advertisers can run into saturation issues within their target audiences on Facebook over time.
Audience Network represents an easy way to expand the reach of the campaign to capture more new users, without sacrificing the advertiser’s targeting criteria or cost-effectiveness.
Advertisers using ads to drive actions like website purchases are more likely to employ FAN to scale individual acquisition campaigns. Advertisers could do this for limited-time sales or to promote brand-new products, then use those initial user actions to inform subsequent remarketing campaigns on Facebook.
Regardless of your exact company objectives, the takeaway for any advertiser should be that Audience Network is worth testing, particularly for campaigns with a proven target audience on Facebook. We’ve already observed advertisers achieving comparable or better ROAS using FAN, and there’s no reason to think that this won’t continue as inventory expands, broadening the ability to reach targeted consumers off of Facebook.