Put the Facebook flood to work.

From search to social

Close to 1/5th of total time spent online is spent on Facebook. This is a huge shift from the composition of web activity eight years ago when Facebook first began. Back then, it was a search-focused web. Most content creation and consumption happened on siloed web pages and search functioned as a bridge to this content. Google became synonymous with “search” and built an empire that dominated the web.

Search is not dead

Let me be clear, this is not a “search is dead” post. Search is far from dead, and phrases like that are overly simplistic at best. It’s not that search is shrinking, it’s that the web is growing and this growth is outpacing search. This growth is very much related to the seemingly infinite channels of content creation with Facebook leading the charge.

The roles of search and social

Search is still the best way to find a product or service you are looking for. It is still the top driver of traffic for most websites. People go to search when they have a problem to solve and hopefully your website will have that solution. But seeking solutions to problems is just a slice of the time spent on the web. The rest of the time is spent browsing the abundance of content created and Facebook is the biggest window we have to display that content. The majority of users use brand sites and retailers to research and buy products and services, and search is their gateway to these sites. Facebook, however, is a place where people are sharing news, favorite products, reviews, movies, games, and anything else that interests them.

The content boom

Not only is Facebook the biggest repository of content, it is usually relevant to us because it is content created by a trusted source, friends and family. This trusted source is often an important factor in deciding on the next car you buy, or the insurance company you choose, the hotel you stay in, restaurant you will have dinner at, or your next smartphone. Because this high-value content is constantly streaming through Facebook, we are checking Facebook daily for the next insight into our social network’s behavior which will have an impact on our own.

The problem: A needle in a haystack

Given the above, the obvious value in this behavioral shift from search to social media is the sheer volume of content now present on the social networks. The downside is that the content on Facebook is disorganized. Specifically for brands, most of the content and interaction exists in the form of comments and likes. Now with the new OpenGraph, application developers can do more by contextualizing interactions into objects and actions like “books” and “read,” respectively. But Timeline for brands does not yet include these new OpenGraph improvements.

The solution: Facebook applications

By effectively using and promoting Facebook applications on your brand pages, you can convert the unstructured smorgasbord of content on your timeline into reviews, questions, polls, feedback, and other structured data types that can be used and tracked across your different channels. Facebook applications give you the ability to structure your conversations with fans. They remove the nebulous “comment” structure inherent on your Timeline. If someone asks a question on your timeline, how do they know when it is answered? How can that answer be shown to others that have that question about the same product? When someone shares their experience with a product on the timeline, how do other users shopping for that product on your website see this experience? They can’t because the content is lost in the noise of your timeline stream. It can’t be leveraged elsewhere. Facebook applications should push and pull content to and from the Facebook Timeline, while page owners should be able to leverage this content in meaningful ways across all channels.

Another advantage of contextualizing content with Facebook applications is the ability to better track the impact of the content. Tracking the impact or value of a comment on your Timeline is next to impossible. Facebook applications give you far more flexibility in terms of attributing value to the content created within the application. For example, a cosmetics company could create a polling app that learns a customer’s hair color or eye color and stores it in CRM for future campaign targeting. Or a review created in a Facebook application can be used in the purchase path of your users.

What do you do with your content on Facebook? What metrics to you use to indicate the usefulness of content collected?

  • http://cognited.tumblr.com/ warren

    H Akhtar,
    Facebook s a socal gatherng place. When people gather on Facebook, the dscusson often nvolves brands and or products. When we speak wth our frends ts about our nterests and those nterests nclude experences wth products and brands or questons about them.  Facebook s movng towards structurng the dalog around objects(products, musc, moves, books, artcles) n order to make them socal, but as you mentoned there s so much nformaton out there most busnesses are just tryng to catch up.  The socal space s a movng target that we are all tryng to ht.  Value s beng generated every second on Facebook, but capturng that value s not an easy feat.

  • http://www.faabsolutions.com/ Akhtar Kasia

    Tmelne and Facebook are stll a socal gatherng place. Gettng your frends to sell you somethng s defntely not welcomed. That accolade goes to Facebook pages. Small Busnesses struggle to get round to managng ther Facebook pages. I agree you can do so many thngs such as Polls, revews etc. But man ssue s the lack of educaton n ths socal meda. We as a consumer and especally busnesses are stll tryng to catch up. And that s more of hndrance than progress.

  • http://cognited.tumblr.com/ warren

    Thanks for the perspectve Anta.  Facebook has decreased the number of apps shown to users n exchange for ncreasng the vsblty of 4 applcatons, one beng the natve Facebook Photos app.  The old Facebook desgn ddn’t result n much traffc to the applcatons, so t really sn’t a demoton for Facebook Apps.  I wrote an artcle a few months ago regardng the new Tmelne updates and the mpact to Facebook applcatons here -> http://blog.bazaarvoce.com/2012/03/22/two-lenses-on-the-facebook-tmelne-change-strategy-and-tactcs/

  • http://anitaloomba.com/ Anita Loomba

    Great artcle. Snce the Tmelne change, the vsblty of Facebook landng pages (now called apps) doesn’t seem to be as strong as t was, but the top brands are stll creatvely usng them – Sephora and JCP beng two of my favortes. Overall t’s exctng to see how brands are utlzng Facebook applcatons and contnung to engage wth consumers. I thnk retalers are ahead of the game here.