Facebook recently announced Graph Search, a feature that allows users to search through Facebook data to highlight connections among people, places and things. Now, we can search for content and the results are focused on the interests of our friends. The shift from traditional to social search is a trend for marketers to understand, specifically those with a brand presence on Facebook and Google+. The implications of social search can get overtly blue-sky and forward-thinking, so here are some key factors to focus on.
Three takeaways on social search
Simply put, Facebook has lots of social data and wants to allow users to search for that information. (Vice versa for Google.) For now, the data that drives Graph Search is limited to business pages that people “like” and the information listed on their profiles. After beta testing Graph Search for almost a month, I can tell you it’s excellent at highlighting common interests with friends or nearby Facebook users who I’m not friends with yet. Graph Search also does an outstanding job of quickly retrieving photos of my friends. Sorting through 735 friends’ worth of photos that span the eight years since I joined Facebook at the click of a mouse is a testament to Graph Search’s potential for search engineering and a sign of things to come.
So what does the merger of social and search by Facebook and Google mean for marketers?
Facebook vs. Google: A Silicon Valley social search throw down
Meanwhile, Google+ is quietly growing its active user base (currently at 135 million). And with its insistence on anyone using a Google product to be enabled for Google+ (have Gmail? On YouTube? You’re on Google+. Enjoy!), technically Google+ is at more than 500 million users. Even though the +1 button isn’t everywhere just yet, Google already has unleashed the +1 button on search ads to create socially annotated ads with great success — success such as 10 percent higher click-thru rates. That’s one reason to pay attention.
The differentiator of social search: We trust our friends
Let’s not forget that, especially when it comes to advertising, you trust your friends. You trust them more than anonymous reviews, journalists, company websites and ads. Note the following from an April 2012 Nielsen Report:
Facebook and Google understand both the intrinsic and monetary value behind personal relationships online. The next two to three years could be witness to a complete change in how we use both social media networks and search engines to access information and who holds the keys: the user, not the brand.