Facebook Graph Search 101

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Mark Zuckerberg announced on January 15th, 2013, Facebook’s third pillar: “Graph Search“. This new product is currently available in a Beta version to a few thousand users but you can put your name on a wait-list and be one of the first to have it when it goes live. 

During the press event, Zuckerberg and members of the “Dream Team,” – Rasmussen and Stocky, presented this new product to a room full of anxious tech experts and journalists.

The opinions that can be found online are virtually unlimited and diverge quite a bit; some are really excited while others are skeptical at best.

What you’ll find on this post are 3 simple questions about the Facebook Graph Search that can be answered right now.

So let’s get started!

What is Facebook Graph Search and why is it different form Web search?

Zuckerberg personally addressed this point and said that Web search gives users links that may answer a question; Graph Search aims to give a final answer to your query, an answer based on information that Facebook has been gathering in the past 8 years and stored in the Social Graph.

Want an example? If you are going to visit NYC and need to select a hotel, you can go on a search engine and quickly search for “best hotels in NYC,” which will give you a list of hotels that rank high for those keywords.

If you want to do a similar search on Facebook, you will be able to type “Hotels in NYC that my friends liked” or even “Pictures of hotels in NYC” and what you will see is a completely personalized result page.  Information on this page will be based on your network of friends and their preferences (or at least one’s they’ve expressed on Facebook.)

What can you search on Facebook and how does the Facebook algorithm work?

Virtually everything is searchable on Facebook: likes, places, videos, photos, TV shows, company’s employees and so on. Each of these elements can also be combined. Remember, because this is a Social Graph the biggest filter is your friends’ eyes.

Your searches on Facebook will be a lot more specific and may end up looking like this: “NYC coffee stores that friends from Italy liked”.

One interesting thing that as marketers we want to understand is how the results will be ranked. Clearly the algorithm will change and evolve over time but what is clear is that Likes and users’ interactions with the content will play a BIG role.

Other elements that will factor in are check-ins, location and ratings.

What is the biggest concern that a user may have?

Privacy is the easy answer. Facebook has experienced privacy issues in the past… just think of Zuckerberg’s sister’s problems over the holidays.

With everything being searchable through the graph, many users will be particularly worried about that silly “like” they gave years ago – maybe during those crazy college years, which can now show up in front of a potential employer. Facebook seems to have planned for this eventuality and has released a video to educate users to the new privacy setting capabilities and how to protect their content.

Do you know what my first reaction to reading about the privacy issue and embarrassing social searches was? I went back to my profile, checked all the likes that I expressed in the past and made sure that all of the content that I share – and have shared in the past – will be visible only to my friends.

Facebook Graph Search is definitely an interesting product that raises many questions and shows how search, social networks, local directories and blogs are merging towards a deeper integration.

Is this going to be the innovation that Facebook needs to convince investors? Will users love it or hate it? Is it going to be Google’s biggest challenger?

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, we can all discuss and wait for the future to happen! Feel free to leave comments below if you have any ideas on what the impact of Facebook Graph Search will be.

 

 

 

 

 

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