Could Facebook Beat Google in Social Search?

@Tim | Search, Social, Strategy

Through our experience of managing countless Facebook and Google advertising campaigns, we’re in a unique position to truly understand the revenue generating engines of these two web giants.  With the recent “search focused” changes to the Facebook user experience, there is little doubt that Facebook has its eye on becoming an all encompassing social search engine. However, from both a revenue and relevancy perspective, we believe the current Facebook advertising platform barely scratches the surface of what this platform can provide to advertisers.

As you’ve noticed, Facebook PPC ads are typically “socially” focused such as, “Fan XYZ Page” or “Download My App.”  While these advertising campaigns can be successful (and we’ve manage many), we still think Facebook is missing the mark, big time.  Google Adwords has such a high success rate and click through rate (when managed correctly) because users are in the mode of “searching,” while Facebook users are in the mode of “socializing.”  Sure, Facebook has made some strides with trying to make search a central function of the UI, but it still doesn’t provide advertisers with the tools to tap into true “social search.”

How could this change?  Well, reading through the stats from Compete’s report on Facebook referral traffic, its easy to realize the true power of Facebook is not the number of users, but the trust users have in their own social graph.  Just like in your real life, you ask your friends where to go for dinner, what movie to see or what hotel to stay at, these tendencies are mirrored within your Facebook social graph.

For example, I post a status update on Facebook saying,”Going to Chicago in March anyone have suggestions for hotels?”  A few minutes later, your friend responds with,”Dude, try the Lakeshore W…check it out!”  This is a classic example of a social referral and it happens millions of times per day within Facebook.

Now what would happen if Facebook were to include “recommended links” under your friend’s response, containing relevant ads for Chicago hotels from Facebook advertisers? Would you click through?  From a search marketing perspective, we are constantly looking to make our clients’ ads more relevant to the users, and I feel like this could be one of the better ways for Facebook to provide advertisers the opportunity to tap into “social search.”

What do you think?