In case you didn’t already notice, last week Facebook quietly rolled out an upgrade to its search feature. Now, when you type in the search bar at the top of the page you will not only see people and pages related to the search, you will have access to the estimated 2 trillion public posts made on Facebook since day 1.
While this may seem slightly creepy to some – after all your entire history (if available to the public) is out there searchable.
But privacy implications aside, this is a huge leap forward for Facebook and it makes perfect sense to me. Here’s why:
What is one thing Facebook does better than anyone else? Recommendations. I mean, not Facebook necessarily, but people on Facebook.
For example, one year I wanted to get the best steak dinner in town. It was my birthday and there were 2 or 3 places we were considering. So I asked a local group. I gave the three options and there was one hands down winner. So that’s where we went for my birthday steak dinner and we were not disappointed.
Imagine if/when Facebook improves their search to include some sort of recommendation engine. They already have all the data of all recommendations ever made. Plus there are likes, shares, comments, pages etc. etc. Facebook has a vast amount of data to pull from to make a truly effective local search engine with recommendations. Much more effective than anyone else has right now.
Think about it. I’m sure I’m not the only one wanting to know what the best steak in town is. I’m sure others have asked that question, or posted that comment, or liked various business pages and commented and so on and so on.
Facebook could use all that data and aggregate in such a way so what when someone searches for “best steak in <your city>” it will return curated results, comments, reviews and ratings for each place that has ever been tagged for steak dinner in your city.
But it’s not there….yet….
But I think it is moving in that direction. And not just for local search results.
Realistically Facebook search is just in its infancy. But if/when it can figure out how to pool everyone’s data (that is the data that we, the user, have given access to be publicly available) it can begin to learn what are the best songs, books, movies, tv shows, restaurants, tourist attractions, electronics….Do you see what I’m getting at?
It’s not just about showing you more content that you may not have already seen. It’s about becoming the only search engine you will need. Forget Bing. Forget Google. Facebook is dialed into its users better than anyone and if it doesn’t figure this out – and soon – it will be the end for Facebook. Because I can guarantee you that someone else is already working this out.
So while you now might be able to find out what other people (who may not be friends of yours) are talking about right now, I do see a later version of Facebook search where you could ask it a question and it will return a result which is highly targeted at you based on your own preferences, likes, shares, etc.
So how do marketers take advantage of this?
Well obviously Facebook will need to monetize this somehow. And they already have an incredibly accurate ad program. So imagine that you, as an advertiser, are able to place ads in those search results that are shown only when the right demographic does a search for a specific set of phrases.
Not only will your ads be more effective than other products like Google AdWords, but they will also be more cost effective. That is because you can afford to spend more but hyper-target the audience you want to reach.
Best of all, Facebook could offer tools to easily target that audience. Because again, they know who you are, what you’ve been reading, liking and sharing.
So as an advertiser, if I wanted to advertise a new sports car I could target males, between 18 and 34, who have recently looked at and liked or shared articles about sports cars.
Rather than my ad appearing to potentially millions of “might be interested” searchers, it will appear to 100,000 “very interested” searchers. Even if my cost per click is higher than AdWords the ad will likely be more effective because the users who the ad appears to will be the most interested in what I have to offer.
It’s like comparing TV advertising to AdWords today – AdWords is much more effective than TV advertising because you aren’t spreading a wide net like you do with TV ads – hoping to attract those few viewers who are actually paying attention to the ad AND are looking for the product or service you are advertising.
In the case of Facebook search and ads, your searchers are much more engaged than Google searchers because they are more “in the moment”.
This is all speculation, mind you, but I think such search features MUST happen with Facebook if they hope to not only continue to grow, but thrive in an increasingly competitive online space.