The Potential for Facebook Search Kicks Twitter’s Butt

FacebookRob Diana recently did a post suggesting Facebook, rather than Twitter, was the real goldmine for data.  I, as I’ve inferred before on LouisGray.com, wholeheartedly agree with that notion, and in fact, Facebook is already showing the potential for this with their Lexicon product.  While not yet as public as Twitter search, right now anyone can see top trending keywords and topics, very similar to Twitter search, via the URL http://facebook.com/lexicon.  Better yet, Facebook has revealed where they are going with it via their new version of the trends tool at http://facebook.com/lexicon/new.

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From the new Lexicon you can pick any trending topic, see the number of users talking about those topics on a given timeline.  Facebook goes further though, providing demographic data.  For instance, for the term, “baseball”, you can find out how many females vs. males are talking about baseball.  Under a Demographics category, you can also break it down by age, or country.

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Associations

In addition to demographical information, you can pull out various statistics about what people are saying about a particular topic.  Under the “Associations” category, you can get a graphical breakdown of what the most popular word associations with the topic are.  Popular associations for the word, “baseball” were “high school”, “college”, “coach”, to name a few.

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Sentiment

I found this one quite interesting.  Facebook has found some way to determine the sentiment of users when mentioning various search terms.  For instance, for “baseball”, you can determine the percentage of users speaking positively of baseball, and the percentage of users speaking negatively.  They go further though, allowing you to compare the sentiment of one search term over another.

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Pulse

Facebook will also do some biographical checking for you as well.  It looks at each search term, and will determine what other common keywords are in users’ profiles related to those search terms, and what words are most popular when users are mentioning the term.  For “baseball”, users tended to have words such as “sports”, “music”, “football”, and “reading”, revealing a little information about those fanatical about baseball.

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Geography

Lastly, users can see how a particular search term fares geographically.  “baseball” is very popular in California.  Facebook provides a map, color-coding based on percent of users talking about the particular term.  I can’t help but wonder if all search results are biased towards California however since that is one of the most populous states in terms of Facebook use.

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The Potential for Facebook vs. Twitter

I think Facebook has shown through this Lexicon that they have the potential to be much more useful than Twitter in terms of search and data mining potential.  Because Facebook has more detailed profile data, and a significantly larger user base to read from, the potentials for useful data are so much greater, and are already proving so via this Lexicon.  If Facebook starts to provide APIs around this search data, along with the publicly available user status updates and profile data, they will be a very serious force to reckon with, that I think, regardless of the mass funding Twitter has, will be extremely tough to compete with.

If you’re currently writing apps for Twitter, you should sincerely consider starting to learn Facebook.

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77 thoughts on “The Potential for Facebook Search Kicks Twitter’s Butt

  1. Great info on Facebook Lexicon. However, your argument seems more relevant to why Facebook Lexicon is better than Twitter trends. The beauty of Twitter search is that you have the ability to perform a search just like you would on google and get real-time results based on recency–and I'm not talking about search trends, but rather actual statements or links to articles, etc. As far as I can tell, that type of search is not available with facebook. If it is, please point me in the right direction. However, I do agree with you that Facebook Lexicon appears to offer a lot of very valuable information around the statistics of conversations on Facebook. Thanks for the info.

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  2. Katy, my example of Facebook Lexicon was simply to display the potential of
    what Facebook search would bring. I agree it's not what Twitter provides
    now, but it does show that Facebook has a lot more to bring to the table,
    and I'm pretty dang sure they're working on that.

    Like

  3. Katy, my example of Facebook Lexicon was simply to display the potential of
    what Facebook search would bring. I agree it's not what Twitter provides
    now, but it does show that Facebook has a lot more to bring to the table,
    and I'm pretty dang sure they're working on that.

    Like

  4. You can go both ways on the advantages and disadvantages of a service dedicated to one function (Twitter, Likaholix) vs a service capable of multiple functions (Facebook). However, remember that information may be gleaned from more than status updates. If I share a Siobhan Donaghy video on Facebook, that indicates to everyone that I have an interest in that artist, which could be valuable marketing information. And frankly, a marketer can make the assumption that Ninjas vs. Pirates players have an interest in online games.

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  5. You can go both ways on the advantages and disadvantages of a service dedicated to one function (Twitter, Likaholix) vs a service capable of multiple functions (Facebook). However, remember that information may be gleaned from more than status updates. If I share a Siobhan Donaghy video on Facebook, that indicates to everyone that I have an interest in that artist, which could be valuable marketing information. And frankly, a marketer can make the assumption that Ninjas vs. Pirates players have an interest in online games.

    Like

  6. So … you think people who join a SOCIAL networking site, Facebook or any other, will stay there and sit still while you mine their “data” and advertise “at” them? (Aside from the question of how much of the “data” on social sites is true …)

    Does the recent history of TV viewing behavior since the invention of the remote control, VCR, TiVO, etc., offer any insight?

    If you want to market in social sites, step away from the charts, graphs, columns of numbers, and join the conversations.

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  7. So … you think people who join a SOCIAL networking site, Facebook or any other, will stay there and sit still while you mine their “data” and advertise “at” them? (Aside from the question of how much of the “data” on social sites is true …)

    Does the recent history of TV viewing behavior since the invention of the remote control, VCR, TiVO, etc., offer any insight?

    If you want to market in social sites, step away from the charts, graphs, columns of numbers, and join the conversations.

    Like

  8. My questions weren't about whether that's where Facebook is going, but whether Facebook (and online marketers) are engaged in wishful thinking and ignoring the quite recent history of media and advertising if they plan to mine the kind of “data” folks put on social sites and then deliver ads expecting anyone to pay attention.

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  9. I'm not technical enough to banter with you guys, but I can at least tell you that I MUCH prefer Twitter. The knowledge I have gained through Twitter is remarkable, and I love not having to deal with the plant my garden junk. It's a PITA getting around FB, and just try to find someone's 'Fan' page easily … I don't even like the 'Fan' page concept. Fan pages are for Hugh Jackman. Give me Twitter any day (if I had to chose just one).

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  10. It sounds like an angle on stats tracking. What about real time mining? Does FB allow you to target the exact user and their comment at the moment of creation?

    Twitter's real time search attaches a real person to real time comments. You can search on twitter (http://search.twitter.com/search?q=need+massage) or you can use tweetdeck which makes it a lot easier to receive your notifications from your desktop.

    So if you are selling pancakes you will find all of the real time news about pancakes on your desktop!! Then you can serve pancakes (follow) the user soon after they thought about eating pancakes. Hopefully they appreciate hearing from you because this person is hungry for pancakes!

    New FB force feeds like twitter now. I am not sure if they have a feature like that can deliver search results for real time?

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  11. Conor, they don't. My purpose here was just to show what the potential
    could be. There are only a few things they would need to add to make that
    happen though, and it would provide much richer data than Twitter could ever
    provide.

    Like

  12. It sounds like an angle on stats tracking. What about real time mining? Does FB allow you to target the exact user and their comment at the moment of creation?

    Twitter's real time search attaches a real person to real time comments. You can search on twitter (http://search.twitter.com/search?q=need+massage) or you can use tweetdeck which makes it a lot easier to receive your notifications from your desktop.

    So if you are selling pancakes you will find all of the real time news about pancakes on your desktop!! Then you can serve pancakes (follow) the user soon after they thought about eating pancakes. Hopefully they appreciate hearing from you because this person is hungry for pancakes!

    New FB force feeds like twitter now. I am not sure if they have a feature like that can deliver search results for real time?

    Like

  13. Conor, they don't. My purpose here was just to show what the potential
    could be. There are only a few things they would need to add to make that
    happen though, and it would provide much richer data than Twitter could ever
    provide.

    Like

  14. John, this just shows the potential. Facebook still has some work cut out
    for them, but they do seem to be moving much faster than Twitter. They also
    have way more resources than Twitter does at the moment.

    Like

  15. Jesse, I see a huge problem for Facebook getting the majority of their users to (knowingly) allow their personal feed stream to be publicly accessible.

    Because the entire service was started on the premise of a Walled Garden where it was safe and private to connect with your (mostly real) friends and acquaintances. Already, I am hearing (via Steve Gillmor) that supposedly as many as 94% of Facebook users responding to a poll about the new “Twitterized” design dislike it.

    Twitter is in a whole other gear in terms of speed, and the felt need of it's most ardent users to express themselves. Currently, due to the number of very active Twitter users who employ any number of client programs to send and read updates, the raw data from Compete.com re:visits does not tell the whole story. My guess is that the current 20:1 visit ratio in Facebook's favor is off, I could easily see it being only 10:1 or even better.

    And most importantly, except for a few unfortunate souls on Twitter who have set their updates to “Protected”, there never has been a supposition of privacy, indeed, it tends to attract those that do not mind, do not care, or WANT to overshare… 🙂

    While on Facebook users treasure their privacy a lot more, and would react VERY negatively if e.g. the Personal Feed were to be opened to the public by default. Remember what happened with Beacon?

    I would agree that there are data mining opportunities on Facebook, it's just that Facebook likely has to sell those to the highest (corporate) bidders, i.e. you or I are not likely to be getting open access to it. Even with that Facebook would have to be very careful as to privacy issues, real or perceived, or the backlash could make the recent TOS disaster look like a complete cakewalk.

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  16. yes, and that's why I think Facebook search will hit a much larger and wider audience than Twitter search. Once the masses figure that out no one will need to use Twitter. Facebook just has to improve a few things and they're there. I'm pretty sure they're working on that.

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  17. I think that's what they're building it up to be. Again, look at the
    potential examples I listed of what they can do currently. It's a marketer's
    and news organization's dream if they could have access to all that data.
    That's why Twitter has taken off as well. I would have never seen Twitter as
    a search engine at its beginnings either. It just became that because it was
    more public. As Facebook becomes more public, it will be seen as a source
    for data mining and search just like Twitter.

    Like

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