Facebook users go mobile in UK

27 May 2011

LONDON: A majority of Facebook users in the UK now visit the social network using both mobile phones and computers, the company has revealed.

Speaking at the Monetising Mobile conference in London, Fergal Walker, Facebook's head of mobile partnerships, EMEA, argued the Web 2.0 pioneer has a simple goal when it comes to the wireless space.

"We're very, very focused on getting people onto the first step of using the mobile internet," he said, according to the Guardian.

At present, 70% of the site's members log on from a mobile phone and computer, while Facebook is also responsible for 50% of the time consumers spend surfing the web via handsets.

Despite these changing habits, Facebook has no immediate plans concerning stimulating revenues from this channel, such as through putting ads in applications.

"We are not focused on advertising on mobile at all," said Walker.

The main rationale behind this cautious approach is that mobile media uptake remains at an early stage, meaning bombarding the audience with complex tools or marketing messages may exert a negative effect.

Brands must thus discover the best ways to leverage the existing range of free methods at their disposal to drive engagement, and potentially much broader benefits.

"You can have interaction with mobile users on Facebook today. It's limited, it's primarily one-way, but equally at the same time I can 'Like', I can comment – all the usual stuff that you would expect," said Walker.

"If this starts helping to develop loyalty on the go … interaction with your brand via mobile will hopefully lead to another behaviour: if you offer that consumer the opportunity and ease of purchasing on mobile, maybe that will happen too."

Fashion portal Asos has previously implemented a mobile initiative on Facebook linking to an online hub where customers could buy products and access information about goods available on promotion.

Asos drew advantages from the fact that one provider, Usablenet, coordinates its mobile and traditional website, allowing for an integrated strategy between the two channels.

However, when discussing matters such as facilitating payments, Facebook has not formulated a definite stance, even though its virtual currency, Credits, seemingly leaves it well placed.

"We don't really have any clear answers or positions in this market," said Walker.

"We're not really focused on world domination or something regarding currency. It's not in our minds. Our minds are very focused on the social web, building basic social experiences on the web with partners."

Facebook Places, a geo-location platform, and Deals, which sends special offers to shoppers based on their current whereabouts, constitute Facebook's primary forays into the wider possibilities afforded by mobile to date.

Telecoms giant Nokia has raised the prospect of enabling consumers to “Like” a product in a physical location by using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

"The idea was why not have a small NFC merchandising in the store, and you swipe your Nokia NFC handset over it and Like the particular brand or store. It's so small you could put it in a beer-mat," said Walker.

"The opportunity in linking the virtual world and virtual services to the real world is going to be quite interesting."

Data sourced from the Guardian; additional content by Warc staff