Have you noticed something different about Facebook today? Did you see a little note similar to the one on the right? Facebook is rolling out Graph Search to all English (US) users. Graph Search will allow you to search not just for people on Facebook but will also allow you to search details of their lives. That sounds quite creepy so let me give you an example.
Suppose you have 150 friends on Facebook and because the weather is nice you think it would be great if some of you took a walk along a river and shot some photographs on Thursday evening. Now how would you know which of your friends to invite? You could just send a message to all your friends, but those not interested in photography will not be interested and may not want their inbox cluttering. You also don’t want replies from 150 people when maybe only 10% are actually interested. Traditionally the other option would be to post something to your timeline and see who likes or responds to your post, but that will not be seen in the newsfeed of all your friends and so people that might have been interested will not even know about your plans. With Graph Search you would be able to use a search query similar to this:
“Which of my friends like Instagram?”
You will then be presented with a list of your friends who have said they like Instagram and can message them directly. I think everybody can see the advantage in this product when seen in this sort of context.
Some have referred to this as a stalkers charter enabling searches such as the following to be carried out “Show pictures of my friend’s friends who are single” I agree that this sort of behaviour is a little creepy but that is why you have privacy settings on your account and that is why Facebook is giving everybody a timely reminder about those settings in the message that I referred to at the start of this article.
How will you know when you have Graph Search? You will see a white square with a blue “f” in it to the left of the search box as shown below.
Graph Search was first announced in January 2013 and has been in Beta since then as a select group of users tested the product and this has led to numerous changes based on their feedback. When you do get Graph Search you will find that as soon as you click into the search box you will get a drop down with a list of top level suggested search queries including My Friends, People I may Know, Restaurants Nearby, Photos Of My Friends.
So what information will be available to you when you search? Anything that has been made visible by your friends, anything that has been made visible to friends of your friends, anything that has been made publicly visible by anybody. So you may need to review your privacy settings.
There are a lot of advantages to Graph Search over normal search engines. It will allow you to search for places that your friends have endorsed by liking a particular place. In the graphic below you can see restaurants that some of my friends have liked. With Graph Search I could refine my search to ask “Which restaurants in London do my friends like?” This would then give me results based on the places that my friends have liked. Again this would be easier than posting a message on my timeline or inboxing all my friends in London. I can get the answers I need without having to bother other people, besides the best information may come from friends who have visited London but do not reside there.
We are all tending to look at peer reviews when making decisions about all sorts of products and services. Most businesses now see the value in having a Facebook page to help them communicate with their client base. With the rolling out of Graph Search it will become a greater imperative for companies to get people to like their pages. A like will effectively become a positive review for your business in Graph Search.
I am sure that some of the coding of the search ranking algorithm will be based upon number of likes for a particular place among your friends. If I conducted a search such as “Garden centres near to Blackburn” I am sure that if there were five results but one of them had been liked by more of my friends than the others then I would expect that to be the top result. There may also be more weight given to friends who have recommended a page rather than just liking the page.
Graph Search is the start of Facebook becoming a social search engine. Social optimisation may become as important to brands as search engine optimisation is today with likes and recommendations being seen as crucial as inbound links are to a website. I am still amazed when I see websites who have pages on Facebook and do not have any sort of share button or worst of all no mention of the fact that they have a Facebook page.
Search on Facebook has always been a little flaky when it comes to finding pages that you might like, with Graph Search it is possible that we might see the emergence of the next big thing in search as well as social media.