We’re sure you would have encountered the term Facebook Graph Search at some point online by now. But what exactly is it, and how could you utilise it in your everyday life or as a business. We should mention now that if you don’t have Graph Search don’t worry. It is currently being rolled out on limited release, most likely to prevent Facebook’s servers from imploding and creating a super massive black hole and also to smooth out some bugs. If you’re interested in joining the waiting list to be one of the first to get it follow this link.
What is Facebook Graph Search
Follow this link to watch Facebook’s overly evocative video of how you can use graph search. Seems pretty cool right? Basically it’s a semantic search engine that allows you to search pretty much how you would speak. The term graph search may seem an interesting one but it simply refers to the way in which Facebook lists, maps and understands user relationships online in its social graph.
The big difference between Facebook Graph Search and other search engines is the way in which it understands ‘intended meaning’ something that, once upon a time, was the reserve of human intelligence. It does this by matching search terms via their possible phrases rather than the individual wording.
How Can You Use Graph Search
Applications in your personal life seem almost limitless. Say you want to go and see an awesome band that is performing next weekend but you don’t have anyone to go with. You can just type ‘my friends who live near me and like *insert obscure band name here*’ and boom you now have a list of possible attendees. Is there a particular company you’re itching to get a job or some work experience at? For this example we will use the effortlessly funny and endearing Innocent Drinks. You could try searching for ‘friends who work at Innocent Drinks’ or even ‘friends who know people that work at Innocent Drinks’ if you’re looking for that invaluable introduction.
Business applications are also quite tasty if you run Facebook based advertising and promotional campaigns, particularly if you’re a small company who is looking to increase your exposure. Say you have a new product, we’re going to run with the smoothie theme seeing as we’ve started with it, and you want to get the word out there. You could search from your personal Facebook page ‘people who like Innocent Drinks.’
The great thing about this search is that it won’t just return your friends, it will also show you people whose privacy settings have allowed Facebook to reveal to graph searchers what they like. This will then allow you to build up demographic information on individuals who you should target with your campaign. Maybe you find that the majority of people who like Innocent Smoothies (who have the appropriate privacy settings) are female, aged between 18 and 25 and live in or near London. You then know exactly who to target your outreach adds at.
To see some of the more ridiculous applications of graph search visit this Tumblr page.
Should Google Be Worried about Graph Search?
This is an interesting one. Does Facebook Graph Search directly compete with Google’s market share? Not really. You would never search Google to find out the majority of the information you would find via Graph Search. Google wouldn’t be able to tell you which of your friends likes kittens and which go to Bournemouth University for example. There is possible crossover for searches such as ‘women who are single near me and are interested in men’ or ‘shops near me that sell power tools’ for example but nothing hugely damaging.
The possible threat to Google comes more indirectly in the form of Facebook’s ongoing and strengthening bond with Bing. Microsoft has been working alongside Facebook to provide search results since 2008 but with the dawn of Graph Search this partnership has been further solidified. Bing will now be used as the go-to search engine for any external results that appear in Graph Search. So, theoretically speaking, as Facebook Graph Search is rolled out further and further across the Facebook community Bing’s search traffic will increase and therefore its market share. This is something that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Written by Ryan Hill