Facebook: It's A Start, But Search Marketers Expect More

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg made it clear Tuesday that search would become a proprietary tool on the social site, excluding companies like Google, Amazon and LinkedIn from accessing the data, but welcoming Microsoft, which holds a minority stake.

The Graph Search feature will allow Facebook members to sift through interests, people, places and photos. Facebook will add the tool to its users' newsfeed and timeline. It indexes, or rather maps, data in the Facebook network, such as friends' activities. The service is being introduced in the U.S. under limited beta.

While Graph Search concentrates on tying together data on the site, the tool ties into Web search through Bing. Engineers at the two companies have been working to combine the experience past Graph Search. When people want to search beyond Facebook they see Web search results from Bing with social context combined with information on Facebook pages.

It would have been the worst oversight for Microsoft Bing not to support search on Facebook's Search Graph, as the company continues to build out a more complex search engine on the site. After all, Marc Andreessen, general partner of Andreessen Horowitz and Netscape co-founder, sits on social site's board of directors.

Marketers can expect to see Facebook build out a mobile offering too. Search engine blekko CEO Rich Skrenta said Facebook Graph Search makes more sense on mobile than it does on the Web. The natural language interface also makes sense when paired with voice recognition, like Siri.

Search marketers have been looking to define their remit for some time and the introduction of Facebook Graph Search should further aid those efforts, according to Chris Copeland, CEO at GroupM Next. "Graph Search presents immediate opportunities for brands focused on local and wanting to maximize the optimization of their content assets," he said. "The Facebook page optimization component will be key for brands, as will the ability to get individuals to connect with a brand as a result of compelling content. Both of these factors play well with the focus of search marketers today and represent clear opportunities in the immediate future through Graph Search."

Macquarie Securities Analyst Ben Schachter wrote in a research note that given the "less-than-impressive Bing integration previously implemented," he wants to see how Facebook executes and users adapt to the changes before giving the company too much credit for truly unlocking the value in making its data more searchable and useful.

"We think that Open Graph actions, particularly related to digital media, could be a meaningful driver of Graph Search use (we also expect Netflix integration with FB to increase significantly in 2013, which could be another key use of Graph Search)," Schachter wrote." We expect that users would find it very useful to be able to search the movie (and other media) recommendations of their friends and, potential, notable personalities."

aimClear Founder Marty Weintraub said the transparency of data could make aspects of community management a bit easier. Any feature that helps marketers identify, follow, serve, engage, and buy ads to ever-focused audiences will become a greater value for marketers.

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