Facebook (s fb) is ramping up its mobile monetization efforts by testing new mobile ads served in third-party mobile apps and sites. Advertisers will be able to pay Facebook to target ads in iOS (s aapl) and Android (s goog) apps along with mobile websites based on their Facebook-related activity. This could be the precursor to a larger ad network play by Facebook, as it uses its trove of user data to help place ads beyond the walls of Facebook.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook will work with several mobile ad exchanges to serve the ads. When a Facebook user visits an app or website that is connected to a partner ad exchange and uses Facebook for authentication, Facebook will help target an ad if the user fits an existing bid. The ads could promote a website or prompt someone to download an app. Facebook recently started offering developers the ability to pay to promote their apps in the Facebook newsfeed.
While Facebook has a huge audience to advertise to, it has an even bigger opportunity to build an offsite ad network. The social network has already started experimenting with placing Facebook ads and sponsored stories on Zynga.com. If it can harness all of its user data, it could be a tool for advertisers to better reach consumers on the web and mobile devices. Of course, Facebook still gets knocked for its ad targeting on its own site, so it’s not clear how big the demand will be. Facebook isn’t saying which ad exchanges or publishers its working with. But it’s one more way for Facebook to drive revenues, something it definitely needs in mobile.
Mark Zuckerberg has said he wants to make Facebook a “mobile first” company and he sees reasons to believe that the company can make a lot more money on mobile use of Facebook than the desktop. With so many apps now connected to the social network, Zuckerberg doesn’t have to rely on just ads on Facebook to drive revenue.