Insights on Facebook’s Graph Search

With over 1 billion users worldwide sharing, updating, liking, and commenting on the social network every day, Facebook sits on mountains of data. That data is very valuable to marketers who can use it to serve better targeted ads. Ads are a lucrative revenue stream for a platform like Facebook. With an anemic stock price that hasn’t been able to rise much after its initial IPO, Facebook has been looking for ways to monetize and monetize fast. They’ve focused on mobile. Now, they’re tackling search with the announcement of (it’s awkwardly named) Graph Search, currently in beta.

What is Graph Search?

introducing graph searchMark Zuckerberg wants to make it clear that Graph Search is not “web search.”  Zuckerberg explains that, “In general, web search is designed to…return links that may have answers to the questions that you’re trying to ask. Graph Search is designed to return the answer, not links that might get you to the answer.”

Rather than typing in a keyword or keyword phrase into a search bar like Google, searches in Graph Search are carried out via queries made in natural sounding language, e.g. “friends who like Mad Men” or “dentists who can do root canals.” People, places, photos, and other content are then surfaced that are relevant to the query. Results are ranked based on the amount of engagement, i.e. likes and comments.

Zuckerberg is right in saying that Graph Search is not web search with social thrown in. Instead, it can also be thought of as a social discovery tool.

What Graph Search Means for Facebook

By serving up personalized search results based on social interactions and connections, the developers at Facebook have stressed that Graph Search can be used for more than uber-stalking your friends and connections.

With Graph Search, Facebook is providing more opportunities for people to stay for longer periods of time within the social network. Want to find a great Indian restaurant in San Francisco? Instead of heading over to Yelp, you can stay on Facebook and type “good Indian restaurants in San Francisco” and find the ones that your connections have been to.

Looking for single friends to set up? Graph Search can do that too. What about finding a connection who works at a company you want to apply for? Yup, Graph Search can pull up results for that. With these capabilities, Facebook seems to be positioning itself to compete with the likes of Yelp, Match.com, and Linkedin.

Plus, thanks to a partnership with Bing, Facebook will also have the capabilities to carry out normal web searches. Should Google get nervous?

What About Privacy Concerns?

facebook graph search privacyfacebook graph search privacy

Facebook knows a lot about us. It’s been collecting our information for years–our ages, where we live, who we interact with, what our interests are. So, it can be a little disconcerting to see just how much you’ve shared, both knowingly and unknowingly, on Facebook over the years.

Facebook has realized that this can be eerie for users concerned about privacy and have stated that only information that has been publically shared will be served up in Graph Search results.

Will Graph Search Work?

Graph Search is only as good as the content that is shared between connections on Facebook. Yes, Facebook has a lot of data about us. And Graph Search is a new way that Facebook is using that data to serve up content that it thinks we’re interested in so we’ll spend more time on the social network.

The question is: do and will people use Facebook this way? If you don’t have an active social circle on Facebook, you might not get many relevant results using Graph Search. And how easy will it be to skew the results that come up?As many marketers know, it can be easy to set up a fake Facebook profile and buy likes. This could affect the type of results that Graph Search surfaces.

In terms of advertising (a big money maker for the social network), Zuckerberg stressed, “This could potentially be a business over time, but we’re just focusing on building a good experience for users.” Translation: Facebook isn’t focused on the advertising opportunities of Graph Search right now; but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the near future.

What Graph Search Means for Business

Despite Zuckerberg’s assertion that Graph Search isn’t about advertising just yet, it still has implications for how businesses can use Facebook. Many businesses, both big and small, have and maintain a Facebook page. What does Graph Search mean for them? For starters, it means that if they haven’t already, all their business information should be correctly filled out on their Facebook page and it should be regularly updated with interesting, unique content that engages their community. Graph Search will reward those business pages with a lot of followers and engagement.

Once Facebook does roll out advertising and other marketing features for Graph Search (and it will), this will also give advertisers and marketers more data about their target demographics, markets, customers, etc. and the opportunity to serve up hyper-targeted and localized ads and content to Facebook users.  Time will tell exactly how Graph Search can be best utilized by businesses.

What are your thoughts about Facebook’s Graph Search? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Facebook

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