Public search has finally come to Facebook, and with it the potential for search advertising.
Facebook hosts over two trillion pieces of user-generated content, but until now its search capabilities have been limited to the names of individuals and pages. That has meant users really only got to see posts that came up in their newsfeed or on the pages they visited. They were cut off from links, videos, images and other content that was shared outside their own friend network, and there was really no way to look up a specific video or public post on the site the way one could on Twitter or YouTube.
But that’s just changed. In a blog post late last week, Tom Stocky, Facebook vice-president of search, said the network has completed indexing all two trillion posts on the site, and has begun making all public posts searchable by any user. That means all posts made by news publishers, brands, influencers and public groups can now be filtered by users based on their content, rather than the identity of the poster.
It also opens up the doors to advertisers who want to reach users looking for their brand or terms related to it, just like they have for years on Google and other search engines.
Facebook hasn’t said anything yet about search ads, but they’re a natural next step following the rollout of universal search across its network.
Search ads would enable advertisers to marry Facebook’s already powerful audience segmentation capabilities with the ability to target users as they’re looking for a specific topic, product or category.
Facebook’s lack of search was also one of the big barriers to monetizing its growing library of video content. Despite generating more than four billion monthly video views, Facebook didn’t offer users any way to discover new video content unless it happened to be posted or promoted within their network.
But earlier this month, it introduced a new “More Videos” page dedicated to discovering, saving and sharing videos, a big step forward not only for content creators but for brands that post their video content to Facebook.
With the changes to search, Facebook’s video content is now also searchable, so users have yet another way to discover and engage with brand content organically.
According to Stocky’s post, the new search includes personalized suggestions for relevant search terms based on the user’s interests and currently trending topics. Results include public posts by pages and individuals, as well as posts within the user’s network. They can be sorted by photo, video, recent or local content.
Stocky told the Verge in an interview that Facebook’s search results will be highly personalized, and will take into account every action that an individual has taken on Facebook. “We have to balance two things: how are the authors relevant to you and how is what they’re posting relevant to what you’re searching for,” he said, explaining that part of that personalization will be whether to highlight public news articles or posts from within the user’s network.
For top stories, users can see ongoing conversations and an aggregate overview of sentiment across their network — similar to Twitter’s newly announced “Moments” feature, or the “Trending” tab to the top right of Facebook’s newsfeed. Rather than being a threat to Google or other search providers, Facebook’s new search appears to be a direct challenge to Twitter’s role as the dominant conversational hub for recent events. Also speaking to the Verge, Facebook product manager Rousseau Kazi said Facebook search will make it “super easy for you to get everyone’s perspective in one place about a topic that you care about.”
The company has already begun rolling out the new search capabilities to all English-speakers globally.