Home  › Social › Social Media

Is Facebook Still a Web First, Mobile Later Company?

  |  January 16, 2013   |  Comments

With no immediate plans to bring Graph Search to mobile, a channel where most Facebook users already access the site today, Facebook is continuing with its top-down strategy wherein most new features come to the Web first and mobile later.

With no immediate plans to bring Graph Search to mobile, a channel where most Facebook users already access the site today, Facebook is continuing with its top-down strategy wherein most new features come to the Web first and mobile later. It is a more traditional approach that conflicts with the “mobile first” strategy we hear so much about these days, but even more disconcerting is the fact that mobile isn’t even on the radar. While it is widely assumed that Facebook will bring Graph Search to mobile eventually, the company isn’t saying so much as when that might happen. Is mobile still an after-thought at Facebook? Or is revenue for that matter?

Facebook CEO and Chairman Mark Zuckerberg said there are no plans to monetize Graph Search for now. Developer teams still have their work cut out in building the product to a point where it can reach mass adoption, he added. Much like Facebook itself, Graph Search will begin as a free product that could (or will) become a business for Facebook in due time.

"This is a feature that many people have said is lacking in Facebook for a long time," said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at Altimeter Group. Calling search the "defacto" channel for media consumption today, Lieb said the new natural search capabilities on Facebook will increase user engagement and make the site more interesting and functional for its users.

"I really don't think they're building for Web first. I think they're building search," she added. "I expect we will see mobile products announced. And I also wouldn't be at all surprised to find more mobile specific aspects of Graph Search as this rolls out."

To Lieb, the more interesting aspect of today's news is not the Web or mobile components, but rather the new use cases that a natural, real-time search function can make possible on Facebook.

"You really don't have to use very keyword-specific terms to conduct these kinds of searches, and that will make it easier to use on mobile platforms," she said.

"Graph Search's immediate impact will be very small," concluded Robin Grant, global managing director and founder of We Are Social. "It seems that this is a product that has been built without any reference to user need. At the moment it offers little real utility, and requires a massive change in behavior for people to start using it," noted Grant.

Although Zuckerberg acted coy about converting search into a new revenue stream for Facebook in yesterday's press briefing, Lieb says it will happen without question. "Facebook absolutely will work to monetize search... It's first obligation is to shareholders and we certainly have seen many monetization opportunities out of search," she said.

"I see Facebook expanding on search. They possess oceans of structured data. They could expand this quite substantially," Lieb added. "What Facebook is offering is extremely different from what traditional search platforms are offering."

The advertising implications of Graph Search are clear to Lieb and Grant as well. Both are advising brands and marketers to get ahead of Facebook's search plans by embracing local and capitalizing on the searches that users may begin stringing together. By leveraging the anonymized data that Facebook owns on more than a billion users, it can extrapolate purchase intent and other actionable data from a live search query that would be of great interest to brands and marketers, Lieb added.

"Facebook's sponsored result ads will become more relevant for advertisers, and ultimately it will mean that raw fan numbers will be much more important to brands, as to appear in Graph Search results a brand will need to have a friend of the searcher as a fan," noted Grant. "It will also make it essential for retailers, or any business with physical locations, to maintain Facebook place pages for each of their branches."

While Facebook is not going after Google's bread and butter in search just yet, many observers assume it's only a matter of when that direct threat might come knocking on Google's home page.

"I don't think people are going to start coming to Facebook to do Web searches instead of this. That's not the intent," Zuckerberg said. He also pointed out that Facebook's search partnership with Microsoft's Bing still stands and that it would continue to cover searches that either fall outside the purview of Facebook or call up data that hasn't been mapped and indexed by Facebook for search yet.

Zuckerberg also reiterated Facebook's willingness to work with any search company so long as they are willing to adhere to the privacy requirements expected of Facebook by its users. When asked if Facebook would ever partner with Google, Zuckerberg paused, adding that he would "love to work with Google," but "Microsoft was more willing to do things that were specific to Facebook."




ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!


Matt Kapko

Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at matt@kapko.co.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.



Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.



    • Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative
      Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative (Agora Financial) - BaltimoreAgora Financial, one of the nation's largest independent publishers...
    • Managing Editor
      Managing Editor (Common Sense Publishing) - BaltimoreWE’RE HIRING: WE NEED AN AMAZING EDITOR TO POLISH WORLD-CLASS CONTENT   The Palm...
    • Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager
      Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager (Smarty Had A Party) - St. LouisCompany Description: A warm, loving, [slightly wacky] startup, we view...