1 October 2010
1 October 2010,
How Facebook May Revolutionize Internet Marketing Through Semantic Search

Facebook has more than 500 million users, and if the site’s current growth rate continues, it will have 1.5 BILLION users in two years! With a marketing audience that large, Facebook represents a marketing opportunity that no business can ignore.

Now, Facebook is taking a foray into “semantic search,” and the result may revolutionize Internet marketing.

When I started 1st Click Consulting, I had spent 20 years in database direct mail and mass media marketing. One of the first things I realized is that Internet marketing is a different animal in many respects. But, with the new semantic search possibilities that Facebook started to offer this summer, Internet marketing may soon combine the best of database marketing with many of the advantages of mass media. Let me explain.

In regular Internet search marketing, the goal is to increase visibility of links to your site in ways that will allow potential clients to find you. So, if you are selling antique clocks, you either want your site to be found on the first page of results for a search using the words “antique clocks,” or you want to have a link to your site on another site that has content about antique clocks. In either case, nothing happens until the potential customer searches for you.

With semantic search, a link to your site could be shown to a targeted potential customer even if they weren’t searching for you. Even if your business had had no previous contact with them.

While semantic search has been around for awhile, Facebook is the first site to have both the users and the data to make semantic search not only feasible, but profitable. Let me give you a Facebook visitor’s view of how this works.

Facebook users provide a lot of information about themselves through their “likes,” which could be businesses, groups, or just comments on friends’ postings. Looking at my profile and my “likes,” you could discern that I have children, I am a church member, I support charitable organizations, and I like pizza and beer. You could figure out my political leanings, my hobbies, and where I last went on vacation. And, there’s much more, of course. But the point is, this is the kind of information that usually creates a rich marketing database. And that’s exactly what Facebook intends to do with it.

Here’s what Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, had to say about the new Open Graph application the company has developed:

“Three years ago at our first conference for developers, I introduced the concept of a social graph, which is the idea that if you mapped out all the connections between people and things they care about, it would form a graph that connects everyone together. Facebook has focused mostly on mapping out the part of the graph around people and their relationships.

At the same time, other sites and services have been mapping out other parts of the graph so you can get relevant information about different types of things. For example, Yelp maps out the best local businesses and Pandora maps out which songs are related to each other.

Now, with Open Graph, we are making it so all websites can work together to build a more comprehensive map of connection and create better, more social experiences for everyone. We have redesigned our Facebook platform to offer a simple set of tools that sites around the web can use to personalize experiences and build out the graph of connections people are making.

This next version of Facebook Platform puts people at the center of the web. It lets you shape your experiences online and make them more social. For example, if you “like” a band on Pandora, that information can become part of the graph so that later if you visit a concert site, the site can tell you when the band you like is coming to your area. The power of the Open Graph is that it helps to create a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken.”

There are two ways that Facebook can use the data is collects about its users to make their web experience more personal—and allow advertisers to benefit as well.

First, of course, Facebook can use this information to show its users ads that are relevant to their interests. For example, Facebook could show me ads from restaurants that are located near where I live in Highlands Ranch.

But, that’s not the only way to personalize the web experience using semantics. Facebook can also use semantics to provide better results for user searches. Right now, most Facebook searches are two words, a first name and a last name. But, Facebook has the capability of offering personalized search across the web. And, with the personal data that Facebook has about me, they could be expected to know that if I search for “longhorns,” I’m probably looking for University of Texas athletics information, not facts about a breed of cattle.

When Open Graph was introduced, Facebook partnered only with Pandora, Yelp, and Microsoft Docs. But, it has now made available an API that makes it possible for any website to share visitor information with Facebook, as long as the visitor is logged in to Facebook at the time.

Today, 46% of social networking users connect through Facebook. Facebook has more than 500 million users, and if their current growth rate continues, they will have 1.5 BILLION users in two years! With a marketing audience that large—and a database richer, perhaps, than any other in existence—Facebook represents a marketing opportunity that no business can ignore.

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