Facebook’s new search function won’t be a boon for communicators

For the first time, the social media giant gives users a tool that enables them to search posts going back for years, but it will only show them posts they’ve seen before.

Facebook has given its users the feature they’ve reportedly been asking for most frequently over the past two years or so: a deeper search function.

Marketers shouldn’t necessarily celebrate that, however. Searches restrict results to posts users have previously seen in their timelines. If the post isn’t from a friend or hasn’t been previously shared with the person doing the search, it won’t show up.

In a Monday blog post, the company’s vice president of search, Tom Stocky, explained what the new function does:

You’ve told us the most important thing is being able to find posts you’ve seen before, and now you can. With a quick search, you can get back to a fun video from your graduation, a news article you’ve been meaning to read, or photos from your friend’s wedding last summer.

Stocky explained further to Search Engine Land:

Usually when you think about information retrieval, it’s all about matching content to queries or content to intent, but what we found is that on Facebook people care as much if not more about who is posting the content as they do about what the actual content is.

That means the search function, at least for now, isn’t an opportunity to get your brand in front of people. A brand’s posts will come up in a search only if the searcher already “likes” its page.

Those restrictions also kill much opportunity for brand journalists and content marketers to search Facebook for research purposes.

Facebook’s previous search tool, Facebook Graph Search, was intended in part to help connect people to local businesses, but Stocky said Facebook’s researchers discovered that’s not really what people are looking for on the site.

A function to search for specific posts in Facebook Graph Search was never fully rolled out to users. Previous to that tool, Facebook’s search function enabled users only to search back through a few days of posts.

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