The social network has displayed mobile app install ads in News Feeds for about a year, sending its users to the Apple's App Store or Google Play to download advertisers' apps. But Facebook realized that it wasn't helping developers remain engaged with its users post-installation. On Tuesday Facebook introduced deep-links in app ads, so if you're already using an app like HotelTonight, that app can turn up in your News Feed with a call to "Book Now." Same thing with gaming, music, and shopping apps. There are seven prompts: "Open Link," "Use App," "Show Now," "Book Now," "Play Game," "Listen Now," and "Watch Video."
App installs are a quickly growing chunk of Facebook's mobile ads business, though the company declined to say how much revenue install ads are bringing in. Sriram Krishnan, the network's product manager of mobile app ads, said install ads have prompted 145 million downloads this year. Some 3,800 developers were advertising their apps in the first quarter of the year, growing to 8,400 developers in the second quarter. More than 40 percent of Facebook's $1.6 billion in second-quarter ad revenue came from mobile.
"We want to help the mobile app developer end to end," Krishnan said during a Wednesday press briefing in New York. "We want to help people across the app's life cycle."
Developers, developers, developers!
The app install and deep-link ads are part of Facebook Platform's efforts to keep developers connected to the network.
Those efforts began in 2007, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision for Facebook Platform at the F8 developers conference. Platform was designed as a framework for developers to build apps on, and led to a slew of popular gaming, music, and photo apps populating the network. Zynga was Facebook Platform's standout success with games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars.
But rather than become a full-on app store, Facebook turned Platform into a resource. (And we all know what happened to Zynga.) Developers can now link their own stand-alone apps to Facebook using Login with Facebook--which is used 850 million times a month--and add Facebook's sharing tools to let users post app activity in their Timeline. Developers can also advertise their apps in users' News Feeds and make money with new tools like Autofill with Facebook and the calls to action. And those tools help Facebook show that its users are engaging with ads and prompts. If someone uses Autofill with Facebook to buy shoes on the Jack Threads app, then Facebook can show advertisers that it helped facilitate the transaction.
The tools are obviously beneficial for Facebook, but they are also an easy way for app developers to prove that they're legit. Plus, Facebook offers a lot of assistance for fledgling apps. This spring, the network acquired Parse, a full-service back-end development startup, to make it easier to build Facebook-integrated apps. More than 100,000 apps use Parse today.