Facebook Accelerates Transformation Into a Mobile Gateway

Amid the swirling valuation numbers around Facebook's initial public offering planned for late May, one thing is certain: Facebook is intently focused on improving its mobile offerings.

Facebook recently made updates to its stand-alone Messenger app (which is a complement to the official Facebook mobile app), allowing users to send messages containing text, pictures and location data to individual Facebook friends or to groups. Facebook also recently acquired the location-based discovery app Glancee, according to PC World.

And, of course, there's the April 9 purchase of photo sharing network Instagram for $1 billion—Facebook's biggest acquisition ever.

ComScore’s most recent Mobile Metrix 2.0 report, released May 7, shows that not only is the mobile use of Facebook on the rise, it has usurped use of Facebook on desktop and laptop computers, for the month of March, at least.

Facebook users spent an average of 441 minutes—or 7 hours, 21 minutes—accessing the social network via smartphones in March. By comparison, users spent 391 minutes—or six hours, 31 minutes—checking out Facebook on computers.

In filing documents for its initial public offering, Facebook highlighted the importance of mobile while noting it does not generate meaningful revenue from mobile users, reports Reuters.

"If users increasingly access mobile products as a substitute for access through personal computers and if we are unable to successfully implement monetization strategies for our mobile users," the company writes in its filing documents, "our financial performance and ability to grow revenue would be negatively affected."

Facebook isn’t the only mobile game in town looking to attract users. The next-most popular mobile services were Foursquare, with an average of 146 minutes per user; microblogging service Twitter, with 114 minutes; and blogging service Tumblr, with 68 minutes.

Whether or not you believe Facebook overpaid for Instagram, the app has emerged as a point of entry for communicators who have yet to venture into mobile PR. “It’s no longer ‘tell me a story,’ it’s ‘show me a story,’” says Donetta Allen, VP and social media practice leader at Hunter PR. “People want to have an instant emotional connection that only a photo can give,” she says.

Having a mobile strategy may be crucial for connecting with existing and potential customers. In fact, 84% of small business owners say they have seen an increase in new business activity due to their mobile marketing efforts.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg

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