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The future of social search: Questions for Facebook’s Brian Boland

4 min read

Marketing Strategy

The intersection of social media and search has left progressive marketers optimistic about what the future may bring.  In advance of the upcoming SES Chicago 2009 conference, SmartBrief’s Rob Birgfeld had the opportunity to throw some questions at Brian Boland, manager for performance solutions at Facebook, who will be speaking on the “What’s the Link Between Search and Social?” panel. Brian leads Facebook’s Direct Response ad product marketing and is responsible for understanding Facebook’s global advertising market opportunity, developing the advertiser value proposition, defining the marketing strategy and go-to-market for all direct response releases.

ROB:  We now know that search and social media are connected — and that relationship will most likely get stronger. What should today’s marketing minds know about the “new search” in today’s social environment?

BRIAN: I think it is important that marketers take a step back and think about how people are engaging online. That is where the connection between social and search becomes more and more powerful each day. Conversations are happening on Facebook that later land on search. There are also conversations happening in social media where people are asking each other questions and finding answers. One powerful thing about the information that people are finding on Facebook is that it is from your friends — you can trust it.

Should we be placing greater emphasis on social media’s market research potential or the benefits of hyper-targeted direct marketing?

I hate to take the easy way out and say both, but it really is both. We have been excited to see the ways that businesses have used the tools on Facebook to accomplish a truly broad range of goals. The ability to drive market research is unprecedented, as is the ability to really connect with people in a more relevant way through targeting. It all depends on what companies need at that time. One thing that we have seen work well is that advertisers are using what they are learning through their targeted campaigns to better understand their market. It is an additional benefit they can receive through those targeted campaigns.

Will search become a bigger part of the Facebook experience?

Search will always play a role on Facebook, but we also believe that users will find information through their friends.

How should search marketers adapt to social?

I think that one of the most meaningful connections between search and social is that the skills that advertisers have developed to optimize search campaigns are extremely relevant to the social space. If you think about every search keyword as “targeting criteria” instead of a keyword, you can see how the same methodology in search can be applied to targeting on social platforms. Advertisers are finding more efficient ways to build meaningful connections with the right audience.

The five year question is a little far-off in the fast paced world of social media. So, where do you see search in two years? Is social search completely integrated into traditional search? What challenges here do you see?

This space is moving so fast that it is really hard to say where things will be in two years, but I do think that there are some very meaningful trends. The first is that through social media, people are more connected than they ever have been before. In that connectedness, they are sharing information about what is important to them or what they find valuable. If my friend posts a great experience in a new restaurant, I am much more likely to give it a try. On Facebook, companies are creating more and more Pages of which users can become fans. Those fan relationships are meaningful to me since they indicate an endorsement from my friend of that Page. I think the connections will expand and people will be able to find more information that is informed by their friends.