They say home is where the heart is. But judging by its lukewarm initial reception from users, that adage may not be so true of Facebook Home, the social media giant's new software suite for certain Android devices that's designed to dominate home and lock screens with social networking capabilities. Yet, despite only being downloaded between 500,000 and 1 million times since it launched in early April and notwithstanding its 2.2 out of five stars average rating from nearly 15,000 users, according to the Google Play Store, experts say Facebook Home may hold promising potential for digital content providers (DCPs) to push their brands and offerings.
"Facebook advertising is still evolving, of course. But what Facebook Home does that content providers should be excited about is that it surfaces content to the home screen of the device," says Deborah Hanamura, director of marketing for Metia. "That means fewer clicks between the user and the content."
For example, DCPs can potentially capitalize on the visual real estate provided by the Facebook Home Cover Feed, which essentially gives users instantaneous access to their Facebook content directly in their lock screen. In the regular Facebook mobile app, the entire screen is monopolized by desktop features, making advertising difficult. With Facebook Home, however, those features are removed in favor of a Cover Feed display of your friends' posts and status messages. (For a quick tutorial on Facebook Home features, click here.) If and when Facebook Home allows streamed advertising to the Cover Feed, a host of marketing opportunities may arise.
"While most people cringe at this idea (of streaming ads), the move might open the door for brands with the right credentials to communicate in ways that are native to the Cover Feed experience and to the rich and untapped data environment offered by mobile devices," says Camilo La Cruz, director of innovation and experience design for RAPP. "And if done right, Cover Feed ads could leverage the full spectrum of Facebook's targeting capabilities as well as a deep understanding of the context in which those users will experience the ads."
The latter, La Cruz says, means imagining a near future of adaptive ads that respond to the user's environment in real time and take advantage of the technology packed in today's smartphones.
"(Facebook Home is) essentially a screensaver for your phone, and one opportunity that could be promising is to use Facebook Home to promote deals and actionable requests," Hanamura says. "Because the Cover Feed is the phone's lockscreen, a user will easily see a brand's posting, and exposure translates to conversions. (DCPs) just need to keep the visual nature of Facebook Home in mind when they produce their promotion. The text-based ads often used in (the regular version of) Facebook may not fly in this context."
Sivan Cohen, head of content marketing at Conduit, says DCPs should focus on the potential for Facebook Home to offer laser-like targeting and relevancy to its users.
"Considering what Facebook knows about its users from their likes, friends, locations and behavior, at its best Facebook Home combines personalization and visibility, which, it can be argued, are the two most important criteria for user engagement," says Cohen. "On the other hand, if users don't like brands or products included in their regular Facebook experience, they will not appreciate the same content popping up on their Android lock screen uninvited."
DCPs may want to adopt a wait-and-see approach before jumping into Facebook Home marketing, some caution.
"There's always this pressure to be the first to use this platform. But it makes sense to sit back and see how users are using it first," says Steve Goldner, an independent consultant on digital/social marketing in New York City. "I simply don't see Facebook Home as an advertising outlet for brands. In fact, I think we'll see stronger partnerships between Facebook Home and telecom companies than (DCPs) initially."
Currently, Facebook Home is only available for select Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Note II and the HTC One X and One X+; tablet owners will have to wait a few months, and there are no reported plans to offer it for the iPhone anytime soon.