Finally! Facebook invests in an effective social search engine!
Back in October, I wrote about all of the reasons an improved Facebook Search Could Change the Internet. As we awaited Facebook’s “big announcement,” I was holding out hope that this would be it.
Now, Graph Search isn’t exactly what I had envisioned. In fact, it is in some cases what I didn’t want.
But Mark Zuckerberg also was quick to point out that this is a beta version. He repeatedly suggested that they will be working on this for years to make it great.
Because of that, I’ll try not to be too disappointed about the things that are missing. But below is a recap of some of the ways that Graph Search will impact your business now and in the future, as well as features that have yet to be mentioned that need to be considered.
What is There Now
While it’s an early iteration, there are already a few key features of Graph Search that will positively impact your business.
Local and Social Discovery
An effective Facebook search is a tool that businesses have needed for social discovery. Now users can perform one of the following searches to find your business or product (a few examples):
- “restaurants in San Francisco”
- “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India”
- “tourist attractions visited by my friends in Italy”
- “restaurants in New York liked by chefs”
- “books read by CEOs”
This is what has been missing. The greatest part about this is that these types of searches suggest purchase intent.
Note that these searches can be — but aren’t necessarily — focused on friends. If not related to friends, the results will pull from information you are allowed to see based on privacy settings (content posted publicly or to friends of friends, for example).
Results will be displayed in a ranking order based on factors that include friend connections, likes, ratings and more.
That’s right, ratings. You may have noticed that Facebook recently began asking you to rate businesses that you’ve checked into. This information has been surfaced on Facebook Nearby and will now show up in Graph Search results.
Facebook says that no new advertising unit has been launched with Graph Search. While one is undoubtedly coming, brands can continue to use Sponsored Results to show up in Facebook search results.
Since Sponsored Results target specific pages and aren’t keyword driven, it will be interesting to see how this will work. It’s possible that if you target “Farmville,” your ad will come up when anyone runs a query that lists Farmville in the results. Or maybe your ad will appear when people specifically search for Farmville (“friends who play Farmville”).
Or maybe… You’ll only show up in results of queries run the old fashioned way. Time will tell. But this will certainly evolve.
Since you can currently create Facebook ads that target users with specific interests, advertisers can now use Graph Search to spot ideal interests targets.
For example, I could run the following search: “Pages liked by people who like Jon Loomer Digital.”
I would then be presented with the top results relevant to me. I could do the same thing with competitors that are similar to my business. When running ads, I would then have a larger and potentially more relevant interest list to work from.
What is Coming
It’s still early. Lots of stuff is missing. Facebook has acknowledged that at least these two things will be coming…
It’s bordering on criminal that mobile isn’t included in this launch, but I guess I get it. Facebook first wants to get this product into a “usable” state before applying it to mobile.
But come on! This is where it would benefit businesses most.
While it’s nice to run these searches on my computer, it’s even better when I’m out and about. Sure, that’s what Nearby is currently for, but it would be nice if Graph Search were much more closely integrated into that feature.
Of course, you can expect that it will be. It just isn’t yet.
Search of Posts and Actions
You can search for people, places, photos and interests, but what about posts and actions?
Now, this may have more of a personal than business benefit. But one could also imagine turning up posts from friends who checked into a restaurant with a few words about how they liked it. Not a recommendation, but the post itself.
And brands could also use this to turn up general sentiment about their brand.
What is Missing
Like I said at the top, Graph Search is actually not what I had envisioned in a Facebook search product. In fact, it’s pretty close to what I didn’t want.
Search of Content Off of Facebook
Sure, Bing will be integrated. But based on the reports I’ve seen, it’s not changing anything that Bing already does. Just surfacing their results.
I voiced my concern about a Facebook-centric search back in October:
The average Facebook user has about 140 friends, and that just isn’t a large enough sample size to create search results that I’d trust. I don’t have enough friends to feel confident that the answer to every question I have will filter through them.
Granted, Facebook also lets you search beyond your network to get public and friends of friends results that may help you. But I see this as limiting.
Graph Search will make people more aware of what they’re sharing and to whom (though, come on! How many times have we been through this?). My biggest concern is that this could make people increasingly private, thereby making the results less and less useful.
What about all of the Like buttons that exist on websites? Facebook has endless data on the articles that are shared and liked.
This doesn’t have to be a search of Facebook content only. Since Facebook is so deeply integrated into everything, why can’t Facebook turn up results for the content with the greatest authority?
Ad Targeting by Keyword Phrases
It’s not here yet, but you have to think it’s coming. Target either full or partial phrases that turn up in these search queries.
But it’s not there yet. And that’s disappointing.
What Do You Think?
Will Facebook Graph Search be useful? What are other ways that brands can use it to their benefit?