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Facebook's Graph Search to help advertisers

Not rolled out yet, but is available as beta programme for the US audience

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Social networking giant Facebook's first step in the search market may look like its taking Google head on, but it will help advertisers.

Tuesday, announced an addition to its social network - a search engine called Graph Search. This has not been rolled out yet, but is available as beta programme for the US audience first. It allows users to search for content on the social network that is made public or has been shared.

Since the search results are based on comments and 'Likes' that friends have made, businesses pages are also likely to figure in the search if they have a considerable following.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has three pillars, namely Newsfeed, Timeline and now Graph Search. when it does go live will be available on desktop first. Mobile version of Graph Search will follow. At present search is restricted to photos, places, interest and people.

So instead of a users posting a query on their Timeline, like ‘restaurants in London that my friends have been to’ or ‘photos taken in 1990s’ etc, can now be searched easily on Facebook.

"Businesses are likely to become more visible within Facebook given that many of these searches will bring up their pages in Graph Search results. However, this may simply offset the reduction in visibility brands have experienced due to Facebook’s Promoted Posts mechanism that has limited the exposure of brand posts on user newsfeeds (where businesses are prompted to pay for their post to reach a wider audience). Also, it is unclear at this stage if or how Facebook will monetise Graph Search," said Andreas Pouros, COO at leading London-based digital marketing agency, Greenlight.

Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page once it goes live. When you search for something on Facebook, that search not only determines the set of results you get, but also serves as a title for the page. Facebook is giving users the option to edit the title of the page as well and thus create their own custom view of the content that you search/share.

With a user base of 1 billion and growing, and with a search capability inbuilt, this will provide an interesting option for advertisers. Analyst also believe that the strategy to come out with a limited search capability by Facebook is a smart move.

“Facebook Graph Search is not a web search engine, but a search tool designed to enrich the Facebook platform and experience for both users and advertisers. This is sensible as a full blown web search engine from Facebook would inevitably have to compete with Google search, and given Google’s dominance of the search market it would be hard for Facebook to make a serious impact – and win advertising dollars,” said said Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum.

Pouros said that Web Search is a touchy subject as everyone knows that it is a hugely lucrative market, and one Facebook was expected to enter. Graph Search may well be a precursor to that but Pouros fears investors will suspect that it’s too little progress.

The search bar that so far was just used to find friends or people on the social networking will in a few months become much intelligent and also a valuable tool for advertisers.

Zafar Rais, founder and CEO of MindShift Interactive believes that this will give advertisers an opportunity to target audience in a better way.

“It will be a path breaking platform for recruitment, dating and the way you find things. The way they have built their search is a direct connect with their strength, social networking, & that is the  first step towards over stepping Google. Brands pages will find a new meaning to social media optimization with what Google Search brings to the table for them,” he added.

“Before the arrival of Facebook’s Graph Search, the search function on Facebook was basic and as such, a wasted opportunity given

Facebook’s imperative to strengthen advertising revenues. Facebook Graph Search will no doubt leverage member data to provide advertisers with more targeted, personalised advertising opportunities going forward. But Facebook needs tread very carefully here and be mindful of user privacy,” said Zoller.

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