Facebook Zeroes In On Mobile Advertising, Buys Seattle Startup Rel8tion

Considering how big Facebook’s mobile audience is — 200 million users and counting, fast — it’s surprising that it’s taken them this long to make a mobile advertising play. But today they’ve started in earnest, with the acquisition of a small Seattle startup focussed on hyperlocal markets called Rel8tion.

Little is known about Rel8tion — at this moment, the company’s website seems to have crashed under the world’s attention following the deal. But a Google cache of the site shows that it gives its users — advertisers — the ability to target campaigns on specific mapped areas based on criteria like Age, Income, Gender, Ethnicity/Race, Education, Marital Status, Employment Status and Career.

“This is the rel8tion campaign planning dashboard. You are looking at real-time locations and ad-inventory. Narrow your view to specific locations, specific demographics or specific times by adding filters and we’ll show you your potential audience,” reads the text at the top of the homepage’s real-time map, which is built on Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Maps.

Facebook in November 2010 announced that it had 200 million users accessing the site via mobile devices. But given the exponential growth of smartphones, and Facebook’s development of a feature phone app to access the site, the number will have surely grown in the last few months.

That gives the company a huge base to target for advertising in the future — potentially one of the biggest collective, cross-border mobile communities in the whole of the industry.

The deal also builds on Facebook’s own mobile-friendly enhancements — namely, the ability to check-in and update your Facebook status with your location. Now, potentially, that data can be used to build marketing profiles, as well as provide details that Facebook’s advertisers can use to target you.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, and Facebook itself has released the most pithy of statements confirming the deal: “”We’re excited to confirm that we recently completed a talent acquisition of Rel8tion, a stealth-mode startup in Seattle. The engineering team will join our growing Seattle office, and we’re looking forward to having them on board.” (via AllThingsD)

But it is clear that Facebook will be putting a lot more effort into how it uses mobile in the future to generate revenue: the company’s CTO Brett Taylor, speaking at the Inside Social Apps conference in San Francisco today, highlighted this fact when he told the audience that “Mobile is the primary focus for our platform this year.”