Last month, Facebook opened up their kimono of pubic data, allowing anyone to search and find results from posts by people and pages from the beginning of time. Or at least the beginning of Facebook time, anyway. But really, who remembers anything before that?!
Facebook has been indexing every post and conversations since their inception. They tested making this information available a few years ago. It was called Graph Search, and although it was lauded as the next big thing for social and search marketers alike, it was pretty worthless. One day, Graph Search was gone and I still don't know when it happened. It guess they realized no one would care that it quietly faded. And I guess they were right.
This new search functionality is different, or at least appears to be. Whether you search for something specific or extremely broad, Facebook shows results from all public conversations, starting first with trusted news sources, then people in your network, then most popular links or quotes, then finally from strangers. Results are based on some 200 factors, including what you've liked or interacted with, previous searchers, and profile information.
Most users were pretty peeved when they first learned about it. I'm sure you saw the flurry of articles and posts telling you to triple-check your privacy settings (and you should). But marketers should be ecstatic. Facebook's new search can provide more insight into what people are doing and saying, thus better informing you about their interests, perceptions, concerns and mindsets. It could also allow for broader awareness of your brand's Facebook page by surfacing your posts in search results.
Goodbye SEO, Hello SCO
Okay, I don't really think we'll be bidding adieu to Google anytime soon, but we all need to start thinking about social content optimization (SCO). This can be done in several ways:
Keywords Usage: Make sure to use keywords in your Facebook posts. Those fantastical or alarmist click-bait titles that we've all see too many of? If you haven't already (though you should have), you must stop using these. They rarely contain relevant terms or phrases.
Will people search Facebook the same as they do Google? Will they use the same terms and phrases and have the same intentions? It's hard to say right now without any data to back anything up. But you'll be better off using keywords from your organic strategy than no keywords at all.
Include Links: Adding popular links to posts may show your post if someone searches for a link (Facebook is now showing results for people and pages that have also included that link).
Get More Engagement: While Facebook didn't explicitly state it, I imagine that the number of social engagement (likes, comments, shares even clicks) is one of those 200 factors. Therefore, the same old goal of increasing engagement is still important.
As Much Data As You Can Handle
You now have access to some two trillion posts and conversations from the most popular social network. There's a lot of insights you can find in that data. The question today is, how can you sift through and draw conclusions in an efficient and meaningful way? And the answer isn't really fun: you can't. Not efficiently anyway. But with some patience and tenacity, you may be able to uncover some meaning.
But don't write Facebook Search off as useless for insight gathering. It's only a matter of time before you'll have access to Facebook search data like we do through Google Keyword Planner. And sophistication of social monitoring tools will only grow to provide more of this data in unique and comprehensible formats.
Get Ready for Ad Opportunities
Facebook has said the main objective behind this move was not to monetize search (but they did say it will likely happen in the future). I find that incredibly hard to believe. Sure, having more users stay on Facebook for longer, becoming the ONE digital channel users turn to for both connecting with friends and finding information, taking over the internet and then the world--those are real objectives. But what's the point if they aren't leveraging it to make money? And what's a proven, mind-numbingly lucrative way to rake it in? Search ads, of course!
Facebook ran a short-liven pilot of search ads a few years back. Not much has been documented about the performance of these ads, but it's easy to surmise that it wasn't good. Yet that was a long time ago, when users weren't turning to Facebook for search outside of potential and ex-lover stalking or job candidate research. Now, some 1.5 billion searches are conducted each day. That's a lot of cheese if Facebook can do it right. So, there's no telling when it will happen, but I expect search ads to be offered sooner rather than later.
Does Facebook Search mean the end for Google? Not likely. Especially with so many users rushing to update their privacy settings. Plus, they've got a lot of catching up to do. But if they can do it better or maybe just different, Facebook Search will become utterly useful for users, intensely important for marketers and powerfully profitable for Facebook.