On 15th January 2013 Facebook announced the launch of a new feature - Facebook Graph Search. The launch of a search engine from Facebook has been rumoured for a number of months and had been tipped to be a search engine which will be a direct rival to Google.
First things first - Facebook are not launching a standalone search engine to rival Google, instead this will be a social search engine which will provide users with a unique set of results based on the 'likes' and content of their personal social network. Graph Search will not work in the same way as a conventional search engine works, as Mark Zuckerberg explained.
Each piece of content has its own audience and as the majority of Facebook content isn't public Facebook Graph Search is differentiated from typical search engines by providing ‘answers’ and not just a list of links which are driven by keywords. Zuckerberg also explained that the search queries themselves will be very different to what we are used to typing in Google, Bing or Yahoo!; the Facebook Graph Search engine will require phrases which are structured like sentences rather than simple keywords.
How it Works
Probably the most significant aspect of this announcement in regards to paid search is the partnership that Facebook Graph Search will have with Bing. Obviously it will take a vast amount of time for Facebook to index (or graph) all its content, and there will be a requirement or necessity to extend the results beyond just 'likes', shares and check-ins. This is where Bing will come in, where Facebook can't provide 'answers' to the users query Bing will /wp-content/uploads/fill the void. Bing has been working in conjunction with Facebook since 2008 to make search more social with its social plug-ins, and the 1 billion Facebook users will be aware that Bing already provides the web search for the social network. It is hoped that the visual redesign will make it easier for people to find the web results without having to leave Facebook.
A recent blog by Bing explains that when users want to search beyond Facebook they will see web search results with social context and additional pages.
'To the Facebook user, they will not only see useful results, but we think have serendipitous experiences'
This ties in nicely with Facebook's aim to help users discover new things, places and people. This also presents a potentially big opportunity for PPC - Digital Marketing agencies and clients are more likely to spend bigger portions of their budgets in Bing as this feature evolves and expands and Bing users increase in number.
The new Graph Search presents big advertising opportunities for brands and local businesses as it is dedicated to pages and places. It goes without saying that businesses will need to pay more attention to their Facebook pages in the future, and try to increase their visibility or 'likes' by investing more time in them. This will give Facebook the opportunity to monetise the Graph Search feature; they could exploit this through Sponsored Search. This is something that is already present in Facebook - no doubt you will have seen sponsored links in your news feed from time to time.
Sponsored links could appear at the top of results as we see today on Google and Bing. However rather than being based purely on budgets, keywords and bidding, there will be a social element to the results; businesses that your friends (or friends of friends) have 'liked', shared or checked into will appear. This could be expanded in mobile searches by delivering nearby businesses based on a user’s current location.
Whichever way Facebook choose to utilise this feature one thing is for sure - businesses will certainly be seeking to benefit from it, and it potentially presents the biggest opportunity for local businesses because of its social dimension - people are more likely to trust their friend’s opinions of local businesses and customer service rather than that of someone they don’t know. Every 'like' and ‘share’ will count as they increase a company's visibility by boosting the likelihood it will be shown to potential new customers in the social network of each person willing to endorse their products and services.
Word of mouth has always been a tried and trusted way to gain new customers, and it seems that Facebook Graph Search will enable businesses to do this on a potentially global scale through social graphing.