We’ve been waiting long enough and now Facebook has finally given us something optimistic to talk about for the first time since its disastrous IPO last year.
It’s all over the news and if you haven’t heard by now then where have you been hiding? For those that have been travelling on a long-haul WiFi-less flight (that’s the only way you could have missed it), here’s the news in short:
The tech world had been speculating for some time about a big Facebook announcement, which came last night during a press conference in California. Rumours were rife around what the social networking giant could have up its sleeve – was it the launch of a new smartphone? An ad platform? A search engine? Who knew...
Until now that is.
In what might initially have come as a blow to Google, Facebook has launched its own search engine, Graph Search. But it’s not what it first seems. In the words of Zuckerberg: “Graph Search is not web search”. Phew for Google! Rather than taking on the internet king of search that is Google, it’s an internal search engine unique to Facebook that brings its own unique social networking element to search – which sounds like more of a Siri-style function than a Google.
What is it?
Making the big announcement last night, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg described the latest feature as the social network’s “third pillar”, after the newsfeed and timeline.
It works by allowing users to search for people, photos, places and interests by typing in a search term, which could be as random as: ‘people who like cycling’, ‘sushi restaurants in New York’, ‘jewellery that my friends like’ or ‘which smartphone should I buy’. Facebook will then trawl through its vast amounts of data across profiles, photos and pages to bring up search results based on the recommendations or personal interests of friends or connections.
Ah-ha, I hear you say. Well what happens if Facebook doesn’t have the information that you search for? Well that’s where Microsoft comes in (an early investor in Facebook one of Google’s largest challengers). If a user searches a term that goes beyond Facebook’s capabilities, they will be directed to Bing for wider web searches. Result for Microsoft!
Why does it matter?
Facebook has one billion users, over 240 billion photos and a never ending number of connections – every advertiser's dream. It’s about time the social network did something meaningful with its resources.
For Facebook (which will be music to the ears of Facebook investors), it opens up a whole new ad revenue stream – something which Facebook has been struggling with since its IPO back in May last year. Before this, Facebook’s search function was basic and pretty much a wasted opportunity in terms of advertising.
Since Facebook announced that whopping one billion user milestone last year, the social network has been on a downward spiral – with users not adding many new friends/connections, resulting in a static social graph: Facebook’s worst nightmare. But with Graph Search, users are encouraged to add more friends, spend more time on the site and keep coming back – something that is vital to Facebook’s success.
For advertisers, this is good news in terms of engaging with consumers on a more personal level. Glow chief executive Damian Routley makes a good point that for most people, the most trusted reviews and recommendations come from those closest to you. “That’s the value that Facebook brings to search and that’s why it will be a serious contender in this market,” he says.
What does it all mean?
It could give Facebook a chance to truly increase its ad revenues. Google currently commands around 66.7% share of the search market in the US, according to Comscore, and it’s about time someone else got in on the game too.
Rocket Fuel’s managing director Europe Dominic Trigg is of the view that the new feature should bring together search and rich display together – “something we haven’t really seen before at the scale that Facebook can offer”.
“This means the ability to better engage users when they are searching, but also to target messages more precisely so that users see advertising that is relevant to them,” says Trigg. “All this serves to increase Facebook's attractiveness to advertisers.”
Brands listen up – if you haven’t got a Facebook Page already in place, you better get cracking. And for those who do – it’s time to optimise your site, page, app... everything! Advertisers might have the opportunity to truly tap into that much sought-after one billion user base.
Click here for more information about Graph Search and how it works.