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Good Luck Finding Your Brand on Facebook

Facebook search found fundamentally lacking, say experts

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Met Life and Teleflora are among the brands whose Super Bowl spots either asked viewers to “find us on Facebook” or featured a Facebook icon rather than a website address. In an era where Facebook pages are close to becoming akin to the AOL keyword found in ads in the late 1990's, that type of a call to action is quickly becoming standard. It’s also a potential problem.

David Berkowitz, vp of emerging media at digital agency 360i, followed Met Life’s call to action but found the company’s Facebook page hard to find despite the brand “driving people to Facebook in perhaps the most visible ad it will ever run,” he says. Instead of Met Life’s page topping the search results, Berkotwiz said the listings were littered with “nothing at all that looks remotely like [the] brand.”

“I’d say Facebook search is broken, but it was never working right to begin with,” said Berkowtiz.

Ian Schafer, CEO of digital agency Deep Focus, said that official brand pages not always popping in Facebook search results is a “definite issue” and “one of the primary causes” for unofficial pages garnering fan numbers akin to those of a brand’s official page. Brands can flag or report to Facebook community pages that are improperly cluttering up the site, but that can potentially blow up in their faces, said Schafer. For example, complaining could subject a brand to a social media firestorm similar to what has happened in the past when companies have elected  to delete unfavorable consumer comments from their Facebook pages.

Of course brands can sidestep the issue by featuring their Facebook vanity URLs in the TV ads—e.g. Bud Light’s “Rescue Dog” spot which explicitly directed consumers to Facebook.com/budlight. But Berkowitz said the issue of Facebook’s search algorithm persists.

“I’m really surprised, given that Microsoft is one of [Facebook’s] earliest investors and most ingrained partners they’ve got, how search on Facebook is such an afterthought,” said Berkowitz. Does Microsoft's search technology actually power Facebook's search? A Facebook rep couldn't say.

Facebook also declined to discuss specifics of its search algorithm, but a spokesperson said search results differ by user according to the that individual's social relevance. That means, theoretically, one person searching for Doritos Facebook page could have more luck than someone else, based on their own social graph.

However, it's important note that plenty of people are finding their way to Facebook's brand pages with relative ease. That's because, though Facebook’s search bar may not effectively deliver users to a brand’s page as it should, its impact has been negligible enough because consumers usually search for Facebook pages through Google instead of Facebook, said Berkowitz.

“This problem has been part of Facebook for so long that we don’t hear [complaints] a lot from our clients," said Berkowitz. "If we were convinced millions of people were searching for our clients’ pages [through Facebook’s search bar], we would be raising hell. But it’s not going to be the most important way that people are finding brands’ pages,” he said.

Having said that, Berkowitz doesn’t think it’s an issue Facebook can tolerate for long because it’s a fundamental feature.

“Presumably with all the capital they’ll be raising soon, they can dedicate some engineering time to this and make this at least adequate because that would be a step up,” he said.