In the finest “keep them guessing” tradition of the late Steve Jobs, Facebook had the tech journalist community buzzing over a mystery press conference scheduled for this morning. Speculation was rife: would the social giant launch a new mobile phone, perhaps, or had it acquired another key player in its ongoing battle for digital supremacy?
Now the wondering is over: Facebook’s big announcement is Graph Search, a Social Search Engine.
Finally! Facebook’s existing search engine is, frankly, not up to the rigours of searching through the trillions of entries of a billion members.
So what do we know about Graph Search so far, what makes it different to Google and what are the implications for marketers?
The first and most important point is that this is not web search, it’s social search. It’s designed to help Facebook members meaningfully sort through content that has been shared with them.
The second key point is that Graph Search is still in Beta release – Facebook is inviting users to sign up for early trials, but it’s only rolling out to a small number (in the hundreds or thousands) at first.
And the third key point is that Graph Search is the method by which Facebook intends to harness the social potential of its members’ accumulated postings (which has BIG implications for marketers).
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For example: you want to go out for dinner tonight. What was the name of that Mexican restaurant your friend Janice loved? Now, instead of scrolling through screeds of Facebook posts — or giving up and phoning/texting Janice — you can use Graph Search to find Mexican restaurants in Wellington. Your results will include listings of restaurants that your friends who have checked in to or Liked.
You can quickly see the implications for marketers. Social Proof suddenly becomes not merely optional but essential — if your restaurant isn’t on Facebook, it won’t be caught in the Graph Search results so won’t even be part of the choice set.
The launch focused on four use cases for Graph Search: people, photos, places and interests.
Forbes, amongst many others, live-blogged these examples as they were announced by Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team:
Searching people: By typing in “friends of friends who are single men in San Francisco and who are from India” in the search box, the search engine highlights those search terms and brings up a list of eligible bachelors for matchmaking purposes.
Searching photos: You can type “photos of my friends taken in Paris” or “photos of my friends taken in national parks.” The searches bring up big tiled photos of the photos in that category. Or you can just search for “photos I like.” This brings in social gestures such as the “Like” that Facebook already has that tag photos and other objects. This is also data that Facebook has that competitors don’t. You can only see the photos that people have shared with you.
Searching interests: You can type in “Movies my friends like” or “TV shows my friends like.” Clearly this section of search has revenue potential. You can also search for “Videos by TV shows liked by my friends” this will bring up just the videos that TV shows have posted. “TV shows liked by doctors” shows that doctors like to watch Grey’s Anatomy. You can also search and see what kind of music people who like Mitt Romney or Barack Obama like.
Searching places: When traveling you can search for “bars in Dublin liked by people who live in Dublin” to get local insider information. Or search for people who have been to Ireland.
On privacy: Facebook has privacy shortcuts in a button on the upper right hand corner. Click on “Who can see my stuff” then photos to see the photos I have uploaded or that are tagged of me. Or you can see just the photos I’ve hidden from your Timeline. You can also send a message to the person who uploaded the photo asking them to take the photos down. For those inappropriate photos.
There’s also a partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine included for information that can’t be found in Facebook’s Graph Search.
We’ll be covering Graph Search and all its marketing implications in our new Advanced Social Media Marketing course (details here).