Facebook Graph Search What It Means for Businesses
Your Questions Answered
In true Zuckerberg fashion, Facebook got us all talking earlier this week in anticipation of the big announcement about Facebook Graph Search. Rumors ranged from those focused on the volatile IPO’s bottom line with hints at something new in Facebook marketing to the comical – like the prediction that Beast, Mark and Priscilla’s Hungarian Sheepdog, would be named Facebook’s new CEO.
Since the announcement of Facebook’s new Graph Search feature, the Internet has blown up like a running Beast “dog explosion” of explanation and speculation. For now, we are left with more questions than answers – questions about what this new search capability within Facebook really means for users, for advertisers, even for Google and other sites.
Why Facebook Search?
With the copious amounts of data, content, and images collected by Facebook every day, the world has long expected Facebook to use that data to jump into the search game. First looks at Graph Search indicate that the new tool is not attempting to go head to head with Google search – maybe just to go around it.
The results users can get from a Graph Search may be more threatening for sites like Yelp or Foursquare. There is even buzz about Graph Search potentially taking a bite out of sites like eHarmony and Match.com, even Monster and Linkedin. In essence, Graph Search hinges on the idea that people trust the recommendations of their friends and people like what their friends like. This is the idea behind Facebook’s Sponsored Story ads.
How Will Graph Search Improve Facebook?
In the press conference, Zuckerberg pointed out that Graph Search is a return to the way Facebook existed to connect people with other people with like interests when it was still “The Facebook” and was only available to students at a few colleges and universities. Since Facebook has exploded into the social phenomenon we know today, it simply contains too much content, information, and images to be effectively sorted in the Newsfeed or on a Timeline.
Newsfeed content can only be sorted by “top stories” or “most recent.” Timeline sorts your own content by date. But, even on a personal timeline, finding a picture you remember taking two years ago can be a challenge. Finding a picture posted by a friend is even harder and finding the title of that book she recommended in a status update a few months ago might be nearly impossible. In the Newsfeed, you were lucky to see your friend’s post in the first place! In turn, if you ask your Facebook friends for advice about what movie to see or where to go on vacation, you will only get input from the small fraction of your friends who see the post and take the time to respond.
How will Graph Search Work?
The vast information posted by your friends and others on Facebook will now be easy to sort and find using Graph Search. While the new tool will abide by existing privacy settings and only show what you were already able to access on Facebook, it takes that content and delivers personalized results.
For example, you could search for “restaurants my friends like in Miami” and Graph Search will return results ranked according to the perceived strength of your relationships within Facebook.
Below results returned from your friends, you will see general results posted by others (according to their privacy settings) and, to supplement Graph Search results, Facebook will turn to Bing for further results. (Web search conducted from within Facebook will continue to use Bing as well.) A “power bar” beside the search results will let you filter the results by gender, relationship, location, etc.
What will Graph Search Mean for Pages?
Currently, Graph Search is available only in a very limited Beta test so most of us will have to wait to get our hands on the new tool to know how useful it will be. The question currently left unanswered is “what will Graph Search mean for Pages?” It seems sponsored stories, those ads that show up in the Newsfeed, will be included in Graph Search results. Sponsored Results (a search-based ad currently available for Facebook advertisers using the Power Editor) will still be returned in search queries as well. It also seems likely that a new type of search ad may be coming to tap into the power of Graph Search. Pages that advertise on Facebook will want to watch for news and changes to ads in the coming months.
The take away for businesses on Facebook from the Social Graph announcement is the same social marketing strategy advice you’ve heard before – the key to success on Facebook is to cultivate and engage with fans in compelling and meaningful ways. When users search for information using Graph Search, a Page will be returned in the results and its rank in those results will be determined based on the connection and level of engagement that Page has had with the friends, interests, and community of the searcher.
The trick to being found by Graph Search will not be in keywords or in a magic optimization formula (although someone will inevitably attempt to reduce it to that). To be found on Facebook, Pages will need to be relevant and engaging enough to be worth finding. In other words your page will need to be truly liked by people to be included in a Graph Search.
We are diligently watching for more news of how Graph Search will work and how Pages will be affected. You can go to www.Facebook.com/about/GraphSearch and scroll to the bottom to join the waiting list as the new search tool is rolled out to users in the coming weeks. If you have questions, concerns, or high hopes for this new way to search, please share them with us in the comments below. If you see Graph Search capabilities on your own Facebook profile before we are able to update here, please let us know what you think!