Facebook Still Searching for the Answers
Published: November 7, 2012
Author: Marc Poirier
When David went up against Goliath, he was significantly smaller than the Philistine giant. Nevertheless, Goliath was his main competition, and, therefore, he had to go.
Now, let’s picture a young Mark Zuckerberg (you can picture him at his current age — he’s still young) in whatever bronze-age battle gear you’d like to picture him in, going up against a much larger opponent: Google.
The thing is, in this particular scenario, our young hero has yet to reach into his bag to grab a rock, let alone hurl it at the Goliath before him.
But, as we found out in September, the team over at Facebook has definitely opened the bag, and they have their sights on the behemoth.
At this point, Facebook really only competes against Google in display advertising revenue, and they do so only in one place: on Facebook. Google has advertising opportunities on millions of websites around the Web with opportunities in search, display, and mobile.
And while Facebook has opened up the doors to mobile advertising, they are still really just sitting on the very tip of this iceberg.
So, it most likely came as no surprise when Zuckerberg said that “we need to go do that” when asked about the possibility of Facebook getting more involved in search last September.
So, what does that mean for marketers — and, really, what could it mean to the future success of Facebook, a company whose revenue growth is not just slowing, but, in fact, decelerating (until very recently)?
Facebook has a real opportunity to get involved in search in a way that no other search engine could, at this point. Despite the fact that Google has thrown its hat into the ring in the social game, they have just 1/9th the number of active users that Facebook has.
Where Facebook has the advantage is in the ability to parse more social signals than Google in an effort to provide more than algorithmic results comparing the search to sites. The Facebook algorithm could also provide results based on what one’s friends have either expressed an interest in via their own networking activities, or have actually checked-in to, or places where they’ve been tagged.
This offers an interesting perspective to marketers and could, potentially, provide Facebook with an extra layer of visibility — not only to those performing search, but also to the marketers targeting those individuals.
Facebook currently leverages the Bing search engine for anyone performing Web-based search on the site. This, now, actually provides Facebook and Microsoft with an excellent opportunity to improve their search-marketing abilities.
At the moment, the results one gets with social signals on Bing, or when searching the Web on Facebook (a rare occurrence, one expects), are a little weak. There is a lot more to explore here in terms of enabling a feature like this for both searchers and those who market to them.
How this partnership would work from a business standpoint is anyone’s guess. The point is that, were Facebook/Bing to invest in combining the best of each, it could open the door to an entirely new form of search marketing and provide an opportunity for growth for each of these companies.
A marketer who is able to generate positive ROI via Facebook advertising most likely doesn’t care all that much about the company’s revenue, or projected growth. However, as marketers, all of us are interested in competition between businesses that provide us with advertising opportunities, because it means that each network will have to innovate and provide a better service to both customers and marketers with each passing quarter.
This is a win-win for the consumer/marketer relationship, and Facebook expressing an interest in growing and giving better, more effective tools to marketers through different avenues should make us all sit up and pay attention.
Despite the fact that many of us, even some at Acquisio, will take a jab at Facebook from time to time, it is within our best interests to see this company — and others who give us the opportunity to reach our customers — interested in innovating, evolving, and growing.
If Facebook can manage to put together the kind of search function that I think they can, it will be a boon for advertisers, and it’ll give us one more channel in which to be successful.
– Marc Poirier, Acquisio