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John Waghorn

Is Facebook Finally Set to Target the Search Market?

4th Apr 2012 Social Media, Facebook, Social Media 3 minutes to read


As Google recently released their advert for Google plus, with the intention of attracting more people to sign up to their social network [See: Google+ TV ad Illustrates the Internet Giant’s Intentions], speculation has increased as to whether Facebook is planning to improve their search functionality to compete, or shall we say take away, some of the market share from the search giant.

If this move is believed to be true, Facebook are moving into Google’s territory in the same way that Google has created their own social network to compete for social space with Facebook.

According to an article by Bloomberg Businessweek, Facebook has a group of engineers working on a new and improved search functionality after critics believed they saw a prototype of a new Facebook search engine on Mark Zuckerberg’s computer.

Facebook has a wealth of information from the 845 million worldwide users that are signed up to the social platform, although they have not yet monetised its search engine, despite joining forces with Bing to allow people to find other users, brands, and groups fairly successfully. Facebook has the option to create a search environment similar to that of Google Search, Plus Your World through their network, where results could be based on status updates, articles and videos that you and other friends have ‘liked’ and also the vast amount of data they have available on user habits.

When we observe the statistics for search, we can see that Facebook is inevitably miles behind. ComScore shows that during February 2012, users carried out 336 million searches via Facebook, a miniscule amount compared to the search giant’s figures for the same month – 17,628 million. Clearly, Facebook is a long way off the mark, but as Google has moved into social, Facebook should be doing all they can to move into search.

Essentially, the outcome for both Internet giants would be a world where users don’t ever need to log out from one profile. In other words, Google or Facebook would provide social and search results combined and allow for social sharing to other platforms all at the click of a button. If Facebook also started to open up the market by introducing keyword ads next to search results then search would continue to evolve once more, albeit these outcomes could be way off in the future.

Facebook have the data available to make better use of the information they have to hand, and although they can’t compete with Google, a clear leader in the market, they can improve their own search techniques and try and take at least some of the market away from their competitors. However, Google is number one for a reason; they have the technology and the algorithm in place to provide quality results for their users which is why they are experts in their field. Social and search have a significant place in the progression of technology in the future and how we as users receive our results, so I think it’s fair to make the assumption that Facebook will inevitably have to move in this direction at some stage.

As one platform becomes the “latest thing on the web”, users like to pounce on it straight away and over time older platforms become irrelevant or less significant. MySpace is a prime example of this, because when Facebook was introduced, more people diverted their attention to the new platform, leaving the old one behind. As a result, companies need to move forward and present new ways for users to share and find information, so no one can blame Facebook for trying. The next few years for Google and Facebook will certainly be interesting and only time will tell if this speculation becomes reality and what search and social combined will have to offer.

The search advertising marketing market is worth $15 billion and this will definitely be an enticing amount for Facebook to get their hands on. As Greg Sterling, senior analysts at Opus Research, states: “There’s a huge amount of revenue waiting to be unlocked if they want to explore search-based pay-per-click advertising. They can leverage the data and demographic information they already have.”

We await further developments.

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John Waghorn
About the author

John Waghorn

John used to be in a band. Hey, if he can still go on about it, so can we! He’s an Apple Sour drinker, a positive thinker and we’re always mesmerised by how he styles his hair. Answers on a postcard if you think you know how he does it.

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