There were some ambitious predictions for Facebook’s big announcement today. A dedicated phone? A new mobile app? Redesigned News Feed? Nope (not today at least). Facebook’s latest innovation? Search. Facebook announced today “Graph Search” Beta has been developed and will be available to select users (the idea being in the future it’s a feature everyone on Facebook will be able to access and use).
What is Facebook Graph Search?
Graph Search allows you to sort and filter through anything anyone has shared on Facebook. Unlike Google where search results based on specific keywords- Facebook Graph Search is aggregating custom and specific content only your friends have shared. This means each person sees unique results (with Google, a search for certain keywords returns the exact same results for others around the world).
Wait- how is it different than Google?
Facebook made it very clear- it’s not like Google. Web search is different:
Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.
For example, “Indian Food!”
Let’s say you’re in San Francisco and you want to eat Indian Food. Rather than using Yelp (recommendations from strangers), you could type into Facebook: “show me Indian restaurants in San Francisco my friends from India like”. Like this:
(photos by CNET)
Or if you’re looking for a new dentist …you could type into Facebook:
“Show me dentists liked by my friends”
I can see how this type of searching could be very helpful for travelers. And useful for job searches. Or just “Who do I know that does _____?” Even for journalists can use this new feature for reporting.
Search is Facebook’s tailbone
Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang accurately cited in December that, “Search is Facebook’s tailbone.” Why? Your data is in Facebook. And so is the data of all your closest friends and family. The idea of Facebook letting you harness and access all this content in your social graph in this way is powerful (until now, it has been locked up in your News Feed and your Timeline).
Graph Search will suck if your friends suck
I’ve blogged about this before, but Facebook sucks if your friends suck. The value of Facebook is dependent upon the people you are friends with. To return any results (content) Graph Search is dependent upon that YOUR friends are sharing and creating content- it’s a direct correlation. Something to keep in mind when opinions and reviews start coming in about this feature. Your friend’s content they’ve posted to Facebook will define what you experience (and for some people, it might be rather disappointing).
The implications for business and brands
For brands and businesses who already have an audience that is mentioning, posting, checking-in, and tagging their brand photos on Facebook- Graph Search could have immediate positive results. However we may see marketers employ more promotional tactics like “post a photo, check-in, and tag us on Facebook” (throughout all mediums; TV, print, signage, brick and mortar etc). With how Graph Search functions- unless your brand has content IN Facebook, your results won’t appear in search. It’s unclear if Sponsored Results will be enabled for Graph Search, but they already have this ad model- so expect some of the bigger brands to make a play for advertising when this feature rolls out to the public.
ZDNet has an excellent write-up of best practices (initial) in terms of optimizing your brand page for Graph Search:
Howard Lo writes:
- Number of likes becomes more important–since search will begin with people connected to Pages, the more people liking your Page means more people connected and thus the higher frequency of showing in search results.
- Fill out Page fields properly–for your business Page, ensure each field is filled out with the relevant, properly-formatted information. Don’t try to create your own sub-category, follow the standards. Don’t put text into phone number fields. Facebook should be pulling lots of data from these fields.
- For the open-ended text in description fields, write copy that includes keywords, as if you’re writing copy for Google to “crawl”.
- Tag your photos with locations, such as your business, and dates–I wonder if there is opportunity here to somehow create searchable product catalogs.
- Tag your photos with a Page name (for example, my business Page is “Standing Sushi Bar”)–Assuming Facebook treats a photo where Standing Sushi Bar is tagged similarly to how it treats a tagged human, then “Show me photos of Standing Sushi Bar” would show photos tagged with Standing Sushi Bar. Slightly different than tagging location.
Privacy: should you be worried?
Facebook has assured that only content that you’ve set to be shar-able is what your friends will have access too. Meaning, only content that has been shared with you from your friends is eligible to appear in the results. Here is the official video Facebook created to show how privacy works with Graph Search:
My first take on the UI is this is a new behavior for the average person to learn. It’s not natural to think in terms of filters. This kind of search that requires ‘new thinking’ in how and what you can search. It’s a much more linear train of thought similar to how programmers and developers think (and for them, because it’s reminiscent of ‘if this then that’ logic and queries, which will come much more naturally for them).
Things could get interesting…
Similar to when News Feed was released- there is already a lot of discussion of all the funny but perhaps inappropriate things that could be uncovered and like these screenshots below. Gizmodo has gone as far as saying “these are just horrible“.
(picture from TechCrunch)