By Ed Duffy
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg did a pretty good job of hyping up the "major announcement" that took place today at Facebook headquarters. While market reaction was less than jubilant, the new search tool he announced will add significant value to users and to advertisers.
The search tool called "Graph Search" will allow users to search the Facebook site for public posts, likes, pictures, interests and more, as well as items posted by their Facebook friends. Up to now, when you posted a picture of the Grand Canyon, your post would move its way down the timeline and perhaps after a few days, might never have been seen by anyone again. Now if one of your friends searches Facebook for Grand Canyon, your post will come up. It's actually kind of surprising that it took them this long. Site search is pretty routine for most sites. Perhaps they were trying to work out the best way to collect and monetize search data.
In any case, the new feature will make the site more interesting and useful to users and make posts for things like business pages more valuable by giving them new life. That new product announcement you posted 6 months ago is now much more likely to be viewed by many more people. No doubt advertisers will also be able to make use of new data as well, targeting people who searched for Mexican restaurants in a specific locale for example.
The roll out will be gradual. The feature will become available to a few hundred thousand users immediately, with more added as they work the bugs out. At first the search will focus on people, photos, places and interests. As a business user, it might be wise to share your business posts on your personal page, using comments which include the name of the business, location and product.
With hundreds of millions of users worldwide, the question for Facebook has always been how to monetize all those eyeballs. This new feature, by itself, may not have an immediate huge impact on earnings, but it's another incremental increase in value. They don't necessarily have to hit home runs so long as they keep getting hits. I think this one is a hit.