Following in the footsteps of Google, Facebook have now officially launched their own version of sponsored results. Tests of the ad program all went according to plan last month, and this represents the latest move from Facebook towards operating as a more commercialised platform.
Unlike Google, which allows users to bid for keywords, Facebook will generate income from allowing people to bid on specific pages, apps or places. Sponsored results will appear before natural search results; however the feature is once again restricted to desktop applications for the time being. While sponsored results will inevitably create a welcomed source of new revenue for the social media giant, it seems to be yet another demonstration of Facebook's inability to adapt to the ever-increasing demand for mobile website optimization.
Some minor changes have been made to the function following the test phase, most noticeably the black-bordered section around paid search results. The logic behind this is to differentiate between paid and non-paid search results, in the hope it will appeal to a larger number of bidders. Zynga, Marvel and Match.com are said to be amongst the first adopters of the service. Unlike with Google's paid ads, Facebook users will have the option to remove paid results from their search by clicking a small "x" in the top right-hand corner.
While promoting the service to potential advertisers, Facebook said, "Every day many people on Facebook use our search to find people, places and things... Sponsored Results gives brands the ability to buy ads in search results, bringing more awareness and traffic to your App, Page or Place." The main difference between users searching on Google and Facebook, however, is the nature of the search. People utilising the search bar on Facebook are typically looking for something specific; generally a particular user, fan page, application or game. People using Google search are often open to suggestion, and have a far wider area of interest.
One of the main benefits of the results is the sponsor's ability to set a specific landing destination for click-throughs, which massively boosts the appeal from a marketing perspective. Brands that are pushing a particular promotion for example, would be able to run a sponsored results campaign based on a certain keyword that relates to a custom tab on their landing page.
The concern for potential investors in Facebook's sponsored results is that the majority of users will instinctively disregard the paid results, as they are only interested in the destination they originally intended to reach. The distinct black-border around sponsored results identifies paid results to users straight away, to whom it may become second nature to ignore such results. This worry is alleviated by the fact that the sponsorship works on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis, much like Google AdWords, so the risk is relatively low.
Facebook's latest initiative to further monetize the service will no doubt leave a sour taste in the mouths of some users. People who click away from the sponsored results for instance, will be expected to fill out a short questionnaire-style popup explaining why they closed the sponsored results. Either way, the function went live in the Power Editor yesterday, so expect to see plenty of paid search results in the near future.
The original article can be found on the Big Dot Media blog.