In theory, Facebook’s nearly one billion strong user-base suppose to be a monstrous cash machine. In practice, Facebook has yet to capitalize its giant highly engaging community to the full. So the social networking company constantly keeps experiencing with all kinds of ad products…
And the latest on this advertising tests is apparently, ads in the search box. Oh yes, for those of you who didn’t realized it or simply chose to not acknowledge it, Facebook HAS a search engine, a pretty horrible one. And now they try to monetize it.
As you can see in the screenshot below (taken by TechCrunch), Facebook is testing for some search ads right inside the drop-down search box as the user is typing, marked as “Sponsored”:
Although the idea of generating revenue out of the search results obviously isn’t something new – Larry Page and Sergey Brin built a $200 billion company from this “simple” notion – But in Facebook case it kinda feels like they putting the cart before the horse.
Facebook Search Isn’t Good
To be more straightforward from the little headline, Facebook search suck. Have you ever tried to search something on Facebook which isn’t an accurate name of a person or a brand? It is just awful! In fact, many people (if not most) are also searching for Facebook’s users and/or brands in… Google! From any angle you think about it, it’s absurd.
Facebook does collaborates with Bing to offer better search capabilities outside of Facebook (in a “Web Results” section) but this integration is hardly sensed, and even when it does, it operates poorly. Let’s be honest, when people wants to search something inside the Facebook network or outside, Facebook search isn’t their first option (or second, or third, or fourth).
There were rumors in the past that Facebook intends to get into search more seriously by developing an advanced search engine of its own and it was also suggested that Facebook would buy Bing from Microsoft. In either case, it would be tremendously expensive and uncertain if Facebook can handle the operational costs of a quality search engine (for context, Microsoft lose hundreds of millions each quarter on Bing).
Just a Reasonable Search Capabilities…
But you know what? Facebook DOESN’T need a world class search engine to make more people use it. They just need a reasonable one. You know, a one which will just surface the profiles, brands and apps the searcher really looked for, nothing more.
The way I see it, people are pretty lazy. They wouldn’t have jump from site to site for different actions if they had the possibility of doing everything on the same site. Facebook users spending so much time on the social network (over 6.5 hours a month according to comScore) and if Facebook will offer a decent search abilities they would spend even more time on the social network.
If people would know they can trust Facebook to provide quality results for basic queries, they wouldn’t bother leaving it for another site (which would probably be Google). For a bit more complex queries which requires a lot more resources, people would choose the “professionals” (again, which would probably be Google).
But all those “basic” searches can make up millions of additional search queries ON Facebook, which can eventually be translated to significant revenue. Until that day, I’m skeptical if this search ads experiment can comfort Facebook shareholders.