Toronto-area digital marketers and app developers reacted with enthusiasm today after Facebook announced a series of incremental updates to its advertising services and apps platform from the F8 developer conference in San Francisco.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage along with other top employees to announce a raft of new programs that included a mobile advertising network, new ways to manage user identity, and more built-in ways for developers to market their mobile apps. Facebook’s Audience Network is entering an expanded test phase, allowing advertisers to use Facebook’s targeting capability to reach users of various mobile apps. It also allows developers a new way to monetize their apps by providing inventory to the network.

“This is the first time we’re going to help you monetize in a serious way on mobile,” Zuckerberg said.

The network can deliver banner, interstitial, and native ads using the same creative assets already put to use on Facebook. So far test partners include apps from the Huffington Post and Audible, said Deb Liu, product management director for Facebook, during her keynote.

“We bring it all together for you so you don’t have to go out there as a publisher or developer with your sales teams to sell ads,” she said. “You don’t have to do billing, reporting, or measuring on the part of advertising. It’s all done for you.”

Facebook-Audience-Network_feature

The power of Facebook’s network will be its ability to offer relevant ads to its users based on their personal information and preferences, says Mario Zelaya, managing director of Toronto-based Majestic Media. His firm coordinates Facebook marketing campaigns and builds social apps for clients.

“Besides Facebook, no one really offers that type of targeting,” he says. “What good is spending $100,000 if you’re not targeting that audience you’re looking for?”

On the developer side, his hunch is that any developer using Facebook Connect to attain a sign-in identity for their app will be able to turn on the ad network faucet pretty easily. It could be a way for startup developers to quickly start pulling in revenue and Zelaya was already e-mailing his clients during the F8 keynote to tell them they should consider trying it.

“Drop a few lines of code and all of a sudden we’re advertising natively within an app,” he says.

Another app developer, Ziyan Hossain, product and business strategy for Concord, Ont.-based Qnext Corp. would also consider using Facebook’s mobile ads network for the free version of his company’s apps. While Qnext offers ad-free paid-for apps, they also offer freemium versions that contain advertising. But he suspects the network may quickly become a competitive marketplace.

“This tool will get saturated over time,” he says. “The likelihood of you showing up on someone’s feed will cost you more or you’ll sink down.”

Marketing mobile apps

Facebook had other tricks for app marketers to put up their sleeves to unveil during the F8 keynote. There are three new features built natively into the social network that will lead to more free marketing opportunities for app developers.

The “Mobile Like” button takes the familiar blue button seen across the web and puts it on mobile app content. Coming first to iOS, the Like button allows users of an app to share mobile app content to their Facebook feed with a single click – or in this case, tap.

Facebook-Mobile-Like

The new feature was introduced by Ime Archibong, product partnerships director for Facebook, on stage as “a great way to get a user whether they’re logged into your Facebook app or not to share your content.”

Zelaya likes it. He says its free marketing without the need to collect more permissions from a user.

“Imagine you’re in an app, you like something and it goes out to your profile without me needing to ask for publishing permission,” he says. That gives all mobile app content the potential to have better reach.

Facebook also introduced a Message Dialog feature for iOS and Android apps that will allow app users to share content via a private message to another Facebook user. Then there’s the new Send To Mobile feature that trigger a mobile notification to download your app to a user that signs in to your website using Facebook.

More user control over app permissions

So far the deals made for information between a Facebook user and a developer have been an all-or-nothing type of affair. Either the user handed over the information requested by the developer, or they couldn’t use the app. That changes today with more granular controls over what information is passed on to apps and an anonymous login option.

Facebook-anonymous-login

Anonymous Login is a way for Facebook users to quickly login to an app without handing over their information. Users can see what an app is like, without the personalized aspects, and decide if they want to upgrade to their full Facebook login at a later time.

Hossain expect this feature will help with converting users on his apps.

“Users were frightened away by requests for different permissions,” he said. “Online identity is so tied to your personal identity that people don’t want to take risks.”

On the downside, he notes, developers may now not get all the information they want about their users. It’s now up to users if they want to hand over their public profile, friend list, and email address to app developers.

Developers who want more depth of information than that will also be required to undergo a review with Facebook.

More details about Facebook’s F8 announcements are available on its developers blog.

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