Facebook as Your Search Engine

Alan Belniakbusiness, Social Media8 Comments

The Social Web is Trumping Traditional Search

The social web is providing fast, accurate, and relevant answers. Search engines need to beware. Here’s a real-life example…

Late last week, the Boston Bruins faced a critical game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers for the eastern conference semi-finals in North America as the NHL winds down its season. I’m not much of a hockey fan, but was interested in knowing the outcome of the game. I was discussing the game a bit with my wife; she, too, was interested. It was later on in the evening, and we wanted to know the score or outcome of the game.  I said to her, “Just launch Safari [on her phone] and enter ‘bruins flyers’ in the search. The first result back should be the score.” Before I even finished, she turned the face of her phone to me, and we both knew the answer. Yet, she didn’t open Safari, or even go to Google. She launched Facebook (one press), then clicked ‘news feed’ (one more press) and had the answer. The Flyers had won; the Bruins had lost. Google didn’t tell her this.

Google search results for the Bruins-Flyers Game 7 (2010)

Stop and think a moment about how interesting that really is. Those that follow the tech and social space will tell you that this isn’t anything super new (it’s been discussed for the past 12 months or so, more or less), but it might be new to the mainstream. So much is discussed and shared online and socially among social graphs that this is becoming a way to get information. Don’t believe me? HubSpot covered this pretty well here.

Hockey Doesn’t Equal Business

You might be saying, “Well, Alan – that’s just searching for a hockey score.  That’s not really a big deal.”  I disagree.  Sure, it starts with a hockey score.  But the searching continues.  How many of your Facebook friends have asked something along the lines of, “hey, what’s a good baby seat brand to use?  Graco?  Britax?”  Or, “Any good Mexican food in DC?”  This is the rough equivalent of searching on Amazon.com and using the reviews to guide your purchase, or hopping on Yelp! and looking at reviews.  Except this time, it’s a bit more trusted because it’s your social graph.  In time, this will be used more and more as a place to get trusted search results.

Searches for good Mexican food in Washington, DC

What does this mean?  It means ad revenues for Google and Bing and such will decline (probably only slightly; Google is trying to combat this trend) because fewer people will see them.  It means ad traffic will (likely) pick up for sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the like, because people are spending more time there.  And it means that ads will now need to be more engaging to capture interest.  Smart marketers know that brands and markets and consumers are starting to collide.

The nay-sayers will grumble, “I just don’t see using Facebook for anything other than publishing pictures of my kids”.  I’m here to tell those people that they’re wrong.  The number of fan pages for business on Facebook is a direct testament to this fact.

Social search isn’t futuristic.  It isn’t coming.  It’s here.  Now.

Update: Facebook launches a Q&A for curated searching (searching for answers among your social graph, rather than plain ol’ Google). Mashable has a nice writeup here.  Further proof that Facebook is trying to become the internet. No longer will you be *on* Facebook – you’ll be *in* Facebook.

What about you?  Have you recently used an online social network of some sort to get an answer for something?

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