Facebook have launched their new `social search’ functionality called Graph Search. It is on course to change the search engine landscape in a number of ways.
What Facebook search offers
It will enable Facebook users to search using their Facebook account for three things initially: People, Places and Photographs. As work continues on building this Facebook search platform, it will inevitably expand to cover other categories.
What will appear in the search results within these three categories will be content that you have shared and has been shared with you by your friends, including content that has been set to Public. So the Graph Search is highly personalised and built upon the data and content that you share on Facebook with your friends and the content that your friends share with you.
So for instance if you were tagged in a photo or liked a page, signed a petition, read an article, visited a restaurant and liked it or tagged it to a photo, then all of these activities will be visible in the search results to you and your friends within the Facebook interface. This means people can search across all of their and their friends’ and connections on Facebook to discover new people, places and things.
Graph Search is ideal to find common interests with friends and friends of friends and to form like-minded communities.
Facebook Graph Search can also be used as part of practical peer recommendation and referrals i.e to find a doctor, or dentist or chiropodist in a new area if you move. If you are looking to find a new restaurant, you can search restaurants to find out where your friends have been and recommend on Facebook. You can also find out what games they have played, what music they like and listen to, what hotels they have stayed at, what movies they have watched, what gigs they have seen. If you are visiting an area, you can find out restaurants in that area, who hangs out in that area and any associated photos. So now you can start to see how `peer recommendation’, which we will trust above any marketing campaign and advertising, can filter into what you are searching for and what you would prefer to be recommended to you, so it’s highly personalised.
There are other benefits that this search tool can offer. It could possibly be a good dating tool, i.e. friends of friends who live in Manchester!
How does it compare with Google search
Bing (the Microsoft/MSN search engine) has partnered with Facebook on their new search offering as it gives an alternative to Google. Facebook users will be able to conduct a web search on the Facebook platform that is powered by Bing. This means people can search across all their content and connections on Facebook to discover new people, places and products and also search on the web using Facebook, so they don’t have to leave Facebook and visit Google to do a separate search. This is an alternative and potential threat to Google as currently the majority of people will go off Facebook to Google to perform a search.
Facebook and Bing’s collaboration aims to bring a more unified search experience to users by blending together social networking and web search results. When a person searches on Facebook for web results (i.e. not using the Graph Search) they will see a web search page that appears on the left hand side and Facebook results on the right hand side that shows Facebook pages for the search term.
Google Search is also one-dimensional. If we search for a product, brand or information, we will all receive the same search results, or slightly more tailorerd ones if we are logged into our Google account. There is little personalisation and no variety. What Graph Search offers is highly personalised, two dimensional and relevant search results being presented back. It is more influencial and relevant because it is do with out life, our lifestyle and the people we know.
Google are trying to achieve this in search with Google+, but people just haven’t taken to it in their billions as they have with Facebook. Facebook has proved itself to be the social networking leader and by launching this new search entity, they are capitalising on their social networking data and content to provide a personalised search experience.
Graph Search also provides an insightful way to search. So for instance, you can find out what common interest groups and communities have. If you want to find out what music chefs like, you can. If you want to find out what product and brand pages musicians like, you can. If you want to find out what restaurants HSBC bank employees eat in, you can. If you want to find out where cat lovers buy their catnip from and who they recommend, you can. For charities and causes, it’s a great tool too because you will be able to search who has common causes and charitable interests with you.
This search has the capacity to deliver a much more insightful and infinite search experience based on social networks, communities, people and demographic nuances.
There will be inevitable privacy issues with this new search. All activities that you have been involved in and shows on your timeline, as well as any actitivites set to public, will be included as part of the search data and appear to your contacts and friends. If you want to limit what appears in the search results, you will need to click on your Activity Log on the right hand side of your profile page and adjust your privacy settings. Just click on the activities on the left hand side which lists your activities for photos, posts you are tagged in, posts by others, friends, comments, likes etc and adjust your privacy settings and whether you want them hidden.
What does this mean for SEO?
The likelihood is that Facebook Graph Search won’t necessarily impact the Google search and I don’t believe that Google will be losing much sleep over this. What I do think is that it will offer an alternative way to search, a more insightful experience in search and a very highly personalised offering for people who want to search on Facebook and who want to stay on the Facebook platform rather than go off onto Google. Google+ is striving to catch up in the social networking arena and this is Facebook’s stab at catching up in the search arena. It will be really interesting to observe and see how both of them get on and how well it works.
What it does mean as well is that businesses will need to make sure that they have business pages set up for their products and brands, and that they get Likes for them. The more people who like a Facebook page, the more it will feature in newsfeeds, timelines and now Facebook search.
This makes sense for Facebook to drive more business pages on their platform, as it will ultimately help the monetisation of the site for shareholders. Facebook has said that the launch of Graph Search is nothing to do with making money from it. However, if more businesses will appear as part of this overall search experience then there is of course opportunity for further Facebook advertising revenue and monetizing the site in different ways in the future.
About the Author
This article is contributed by Sonya Brucciani who is a Director at Espan Digital Marketing, a digital marketing agency that helps businesses with SEO, PPC and all aspects of digital marketing.