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Is Facebook going to replace Google as the largest search engine?
Mark Zuckerberg wants it to. During a recent earnings call, he stated that the social networking service is working hard on its search algorithm to allow users to look up much more content on Facebook in the next six months.
It’s a great idea. Here is what I’d like to see, so that individuals and businesses can get more from Facebook through smarter search:
- Allow all public posts to be indexed and searchable by keyword.
With more than a trillion posts on the site, Facebook engineers say this will be difficult – but difficult does not mean impossible.
- Allow posts by friends that are public and 'friends only' be indexed and searchable.
Definitely hard to put into place, but nothing the pros at Facebook can’t handle. Before the new search feature was implemented, people could search for “friends talking about (insert keyword here)” or “people talking about (insert keyword here)” and posts of such discussions would show up from friends’ and public posts.
UPDATE: From the original writing of this blog entry, Facebook is now reportedly working on a feature that will let you and your friends search your old posts by keyword.
- Have a search bar on personal pages.
Did you ever post something a few eons – ok, a month – ago, and want to refer back to it quickly? Or recall something a friend posted and wanted to go look at it again? Then find yourself constantly pressing the “more posts” link and scrolling into the abyss of Facebook posts? Of course you have. It's a huge time waster.
Recently Facebook came out with the “Save” button, allowing us to save posts to refer back to later. Great move on Facebook’s part, knowing how sites such as Pinterest have become popular for this reason. I always thought it was useless “sharing” recipes or articles on Facebook for later reference, knowing that in a week they would be shoved so far down you would give up before finding them. When I see others do this, I suggest they post links they want to keep to a Facebook group instead. Facebook groups are searchable, making it easy to find something you or someone else posted last week, or even last year.
I know the Save button is a work in progress, but what the Save button doesn’t currently do is track how many people are saving your content, or from a marketing standpoint not able to utilize a way to possibly market to these people. It’s something for Facebook to consider and businesses to push for.
- Having business page timelines searchable to the public.
Just like individual pages, Facebook business pages should also allow people to search for their content. I often see an article pop up on my newsfeed that I don’t have time to read but want to refer back to later -- and then I can’t find it anywhere. From mobile, I usually open the article up in Safari, then click to add it to my reading list, or email it to myself using the Pocket app.
Facebook knows that every time someone visits the News Feed there are on average 1,500 stories from people and pages they could show us, and they try hard to prioritize an average of 300 stories out of those to show us each day. Facebook “knows” by our engagements these top stories will be of interest to us and should know that people don’t always take action on first sight. Allowing users an easy way to search for this content would help. Especially when you follow pages that post content by the hour such as Fast Company or Inc., trying to go back a day or so later to grab that article you wanted to finish is nearly impossible. So what do people do? They give up and go to Google to search for the article there. Probably a good reason why Facebook is working on this – or should be!
- Having sponsored posts and ads be searchable.
I’m sure not everyone would care about this, but those of us in the marketing world should. Advertisers are utilizing the News Feed to push content more and more. Surely, there are times people may be interested in going back to that specific ad content they noticed or engaged with. A lot of advertisers are creating great ad content for social, posting images and videos as ads, and Facebook encourages engagement with these ads. Adding another analytic feature for ad buyers showing how many people took action after searching would be beneficial. Also, when advertisers post ads, they don’t often have them visible from their own page, utilizing extended options in Facebook's Power Editor. If people could easily search for these ads, it would benefit the advertiser and the users.
These are just my top recommendation. I’m excited they are discussing building a search algorithm geared more to content than just searching (aka stalking) people. Facebook’s Graph Search, launched last year, focuses more on people and I’m sure is useful in many ways.
Some may be a bit humorous but not at all useful. Try putting in the search box “Randos who work at (insert your company name here)” and you will find all the random people you are not friends with at your own workplace. Sometimes for good reason.
Other searches Facebook are utilizing have slowly gained traction, such as its hashtag search, similar to the one Twitter has utilized for years.
There’s no doubt that a more searchable Facebook would compete with the largest search platforms, such as Google and Bing. Google had close to six billion searches each day in 2013, and Facebook is reporting this year it has over one billion searches each day. I’m sure Zuckerberg knows how much potential there is with a new focus on content search. A trillion posts of content is an Internet in itself, and Facebook’s 2.2 billion users is roughly one-third of the entire population on earth.
Get to it, Facebook engineers. Make your site even more useful, and you will see your community – and its engagement with you and your advertisers – grow.