What Facebook wants and needs more than anything is time. And in today's world, there is nothing more influential or time-sucking than the technology kept by our side 24/7 in our purses or pocketed smartphones. With Home, Facebook could immediately increase the amount of time its mobile users spend on its network by almost tenfold.
In the realm of mobile and social media, the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" carries tremendous impact. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg highlighted this divergence and huge potential during the unveiling of Home, noting that the average mobile user checks her Facebook app up to 12 times a day while the average mobile user checks her device's home screen at least 100 times a day.
ClickZ spoke with a pair of marketers and a mobile phone analyst who readily see what Facebook is after with a more immersive, always-connected-to-Facebook experience, but none of them think Facebook has done enough with Home to disrupt and make gains in the smartphone space as it has in social networking.
"This isn't as scary as it could have been for some of the players...in terms of what this actually does versus what a true Facebook phone could have been," says Avi Greengart, research director of consumer devices at Current Analysis.
"I like the fact that they are not building a phone…Facebook doesn't need a phone," he tells ClickZ. "Companies that have tried social-oriented phones, including HTC and Microsoft, have failed and failed hard."
Greengart believes Facebook Home will primarily appeal to socially centric users who want more from Facebook, not less. "They didn't just build an app. They built a product launcher that sort of takes over your whole phone and gives you Facebook first," he says, but "it does take over your phone and that's a lot for even someone who loves Facebook."
Cameron Yuill, founder and chief executive of mobile marketing agency AdGent Digital, also has doubts about the success of Facebook Home. "Maybe I'm not the demographic that really cares that much about making it such an important part of my life where it's on the home screen," he says, but nonetheless, "there certainly are people who want to spend their whole life on Facebook."
Adam Kleinberg, chief executive of digital agency Traction, was hoping for more from Facebook. "It feels like a lack of vision…like something that they've rushed to market," he says. "Just having a new home screen falls short of having a new operating system, and my hope was for an evolution, not an incremental step," he adds. "It's all about this one screen that gives you access rather than reinventing what a mobile phone should be, and I think Facebook is in a position to do that," Kleinberg says.
Facebook Home doesn't appear to have any immediate impact on advertising, but Kleinberg and Yuill already have a good idea of how Facebook plans to make money off its colossal efforts on mobile.
"I think what typically will happen is for a while it'll be content that you'll see on your screen, and that'll be great. Then because of the inevitable pressure of making revenue, you'll see ads," says Yuill.
"There no reason why they wouldn't start taking over that real estate as well," he says. "It's a no-brainer from an advertisers' point of view…and I think it's going to be welcome. But that doesn't matter at the end of the day, because the consumer gets run over whenever there's a buck to be made."
Kleinberg says, "It's probably premature for them to introduce ads on a new thing," but he believes Graph Search is a "big indicator of where they see their future potential" on mobile and beyond.
"I think the biggest opportunity for them will be location," says Yuill. "Location becomes a huge factor in putting ads in front of you, and because it's your home screen you can do it then and there."
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 19, 2014