With the ongoing development of Facebook’s social search framework, many experts believe that online advertising will be redefined to value user ‘likes’ over authoritative links, which may shift Google’s search power dominance. One of the central features of Facebook is the sharing of interests and ‘likes’ with peers, which provide online advertising companies with a wealth of personalised user information that can be used to create highly targeted online advertising campaigns. The increasing importance of personal relevance is where Facebook trumps over its competitors, but will the social network ever take a larger piece of the online advertising pie?
In order for Facebook’s search power and online advertising to dominate over Google’s, the social networking site will have to attract over one million paying advertisers to its online advertising platform, which will be mobile-centric. According to figures, around half of all Facebook users access the site via a mobile device and the number of mobile users is only expected to increase in the next few years. Facebook has reacted to these trends by purchasing the mobile photo sharing app Instagram for a record $1 billion.
Supporters of Facebook’s social search will claim that personalised information about users, peer ‘likes’ and the transition to mobile give Facebook’s online advertising a competitive edge over Google’s stagnating link-based search. In essence these services allow users to connect with brands, goods and services that interest them, as opposed to being bombarded with irrelevant adverts. Overall, online advertising is more targeted. This can lead to higher click-though and most importantly, conversion rates.
However, a major issue that online advertising agencies and SEO services need to take into account is the assumption that user information on Facebook is updated and correct, as online profiles can vastly differ from the actual consumer profile. Furthermore, online users are more likely to showcase the positive, cool and ‘hip’ aspects of their lives or only what they want other users to see, thereby eliminating the online marketing potential for a variety of products and services. Another assumption is that user interest equates to the user’s intention to buy products or services. For example, a Facebook user who is interested in motorbikes may not necessarily be interested in purchasing or hiring a motorbike. Google users however can add a buy related phrase into their search query, which is arguably more specific according to their intention.
With regards to the future of online advertising it is difficult to make a clear cut conclusion as users define how technology is used, as opposed to technology defining human interaction. Facebook is undeniably a great online platform for branding products or services, as peer ‘likes’ can strengthen brand value. However, Facebook’s potential online advertising dominance over Google is at this stage unconvincing.