Social Networking

Facebook Search Could Become a Social, Local Affair

Facebook is making changes to its search function by adding a user’s search history within the social network to the Activity Log, the company said.

The tweaks, while still relatively minor at this point, could be part of more large-scale efforts to strengthen Facebook’s search presence and compete with Internet rival Google.

Earlier this month at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference, in his first public interview following the company’s botched IPO, CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed some of the long-term goals for the social network. He noted the company had an opportunity to use its more personalized information to answer specific questions for Facebook users and its advertisers.

Now, in addition to Facebook user activity such as ‘liking’ or commenting on a post, the activity log contains a user’s search history from within the social network. That information is only available to the user and to Facebook, and it is not retroactive.

Like most Facebook updates, it’s a slow rollout that should be hitting all users soon.

Expanding Search Technology

At Disrupt, Zuckerberg acknowledged the company has a team working on search within Facebook. He pointed to the opportunities the company has with search, noting Facebook has 1 billion queries per day without putting any special effort into it.

Rather than a simple Google search, Zuckerberg said a query within Facebook would offer users personalized recommendations such as which of their friends likes a certain restaurant nearby, or could seek out acquaintances in a company where they’re interested in working.

“Facebook’s unique value proposition in search will be the enormous amount of social graph data it has accumulated,” Matthew Brown, principal at AudienceWise, told TechNewsWorld.

Zuckerberg also acknowledged the company has challenges ahead, most notably in the mobile space, where it has had trouble monetizing advertising efforts in the past. Facebook can’t ignore its initiatives with mobile to focus only on search, but its chances for competing in search are significant, said Brian Carter, Internet marketing expert.

“I think Facebook has a big opportunity if they take on Google in search,” Carter told TechNewsWorld. “They may be able to pull budgets from AdWords if they get this right. That’s a longer-term plan than the mobile ads, but I think they need both.”

Investments Could Pay Off

For those opportunities to materialize, Facebook needs to make some serious investments to beef up its search capabilities both internally and externally, said Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence.

“I would expect to see more and more search capabilities from Facebook directed towards its own users and internal information,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Better site search could change the way people use the site and generate considerable revenue. Social data would certainly be factored into an algorithm and could be very useful for ranking and relevance purposes.”

In addition, a new emphasis on location-based services could give Facebook a significant edge over larger search engines such as Google. While taking on the all-purpose search giant with more years of experience and infrastructure might not be in Facebook’s near future, if the site uses its advantages well, it could significantly increases its overall search presence, said Sterling.

“A good internal search engine at Facebook would potentially capture some volume of queries that might otherwise go to Google,” he said. “There’s a large opportunity around local that is currently unexploited and search would be helpful in realizing that.”

Facebook did not respond to our request for further detail on the story.

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