Facebook Graph Search: a new dawn for search and social marketing?

Introducing Graph Search

So, it’s finally here. After much speculation Facebook announced enhanced search functionality within the social network through Graph Search.

The ‘third pillar’ – alongside the news feed and timeline – of Facebook will allow users to search for people, places, products and brands shared by friends. While conventional search engines consider the linking relationships between websites, the giant social network will primarily look at how we ‘Like’ a whole raft of things; be they businesses, places, media or people.

We had a quick roundtable discussion to gauge views within Blueclaw. Overall opinions were mixed, with the announcement throwing up more questions than it answered for many of our team.

One clear winner from our perspective is Bing; which will fill gaps in search results that Facebook’s data can’t. But the social network also believes that these holes will be filled as we begin to see the value of Graph Search and join the dots with ‘Likes’ and ‘Check-ins.’

So what does Facebook Graph Search mean for the future of the social network, and search and social marketing as a whole? See what our Search and Social teams think:

Fergus: I see as an exciting development and a genuine threat to Google. It’s also perhaps just the news SEO needs, a stimulus that will move things forward. As I’m sure there will also be a commercial dimension to it, i’m  interested in how they will serve ads via Graph Search.

Sean: An improvement on the existing system – which was really poor. It’s an exciting development and I’m interested in how they are going to monetise it.

There is real potential for abuse as well, with brands buying ‘likes’ to bolster their search presence. Facebook must make greater efforts to prevent this taking place for the service to have real value.

Joel: ‘Likes’ aren’t often qualified, so I’m interested to see how recommendations are integrated. While a ‘Like’ is easy to give, it isn’t much of a value judgement. People ‘Like’ pages to complain about a product or service – not really a glowing endorsement!

Gregg: I’m interested to see how, if at all, interaction is taken into account as a ranking factor. There is also a possibility that initiatives like competitions will skew results.

Finn: I don’t really feel the launch is ground-breaking, but it is something to watch.

Malika: While I’m not going to search for places to eat, for instance, there is value if you and your friends regularly ‘check-in.’

Anna: I wonder how the comparative value of actions will be assessed in terms of the search metrics used. Will a ‘Like’ and ‘Check-in’ have the same value?

Privacy settings mean that search results may also not be a fair reflection of Facebook’s Social Graph. If someone has really strict privacy settings their data won’t come up and therefore the results may be severely filtered.

Matt: I’m interesting in how it will develop with use. My immediate thought is that it will be heavily manipulated if the algorithm is too closely linked to ‘Likes’.

Andrew: As this gets used more, Bing will be more relevant. Bing is a huge winner in this – especially in the UK market, where it has struggled to gain a foothold.

Michelle: Can’t see most people rushing out to use this at the moment, as the results will be of variable quality.

Franzi: I’m interested to see how it develops, it’s not really revolutionary at the moment but could expand to become a real rival to established search engines. I’m also intrigued as to what people are going to be searching for. Will it be products, services, businesses or  places?

Chris: I wonder whether they will introduce a ‘dislike’ button to really assess whether a place is popular or not.

Don’t think it will affect the older generation, more the people who are much younger and spend a large amount of time on Facebook.

Martin: The biggest questions for Facebook is what is the intent of the content? If Google has been struggling for years with semantic indexing, how will Facebook manage?

If they can implement semantic mark-up and make it integral to Graph Search it could become a powerful resource.

What do you make of Graph Search? Let us know in the comments...

about the author: "PR and Comms guy, experienced account manager and online marketing evangelist. Every day is different - and I wouldn't want it any other way."
  • David Bailey

    Some great insights – I can see how companies might try and ‘game’ this feature but really what is the value of a ‘like’? I know people (they’re not close friends) who ‘like’ breathing, and with 1.87m new likes a minute happening (http://www.fastcompany.com/3004813/60-seconds-life-social-media-and-where-your-company-fits) it’s not as if they’re a rare commodity.

    I will be interested to see how it fits in with SEO and what improvements it’ll bring, if any.

    Great article on the topic!