“Graph Search is a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook.”
That was Mark Zuckerberg, in January, presenting Facebook’s new tool: Graph Search. Want to
know more? Keep reading.
First a look at YouTube:
Until now Facebook has been based on two pillars: News Feed and Timeline, which basically
allow users to share information and place it in time and space.
Graph Search has been built as the third pillar. In essence, it is a sophisticated search tool
designed to make use of all the information users give away on Facebook, to respond to
questions such as “restaurants in Mexico my friends like”.
For the moment, Graph Search focuses on four principal areas: people, pictures, places and
common interests. So far, it is only available in its beta version and only a few lucky users have
access. It is available only in English, and can be accessed through the main search bar at the
top of the Facebook’s profile. Facebook will keep improving its new tool through feedback from
these beta users over time, before releasing it to everyone. And there is no mobile version or an
API (to allow independent developers to build apps that use Graph Search) for now.
How does it work?
Basically Graph Search indexes all the data already accumulated in Facebook (around 1 billion
profiles, more than 24 billion pictures…), structures the data internally, and uses it to come up
with smart answers to queries on places, people, photos and interests.
The way to use it
More examples of what Graph Search can be used for are: looking for common places of
interests between you and your friends, looking for candidates for a job, looking for other people
who enjoyed the last episode of Game of Thrones.
Search will only offer content already shared by users.
“We’ve built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the
privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new
things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on
Product manager Tom Stocky and engineering manager Lars Rasmussen
And what if you search for something that it is not in Facebook? Then Graph Search will direct
you to Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Does it then represent a threat to Google?
Zuckerberg clarified that Graph Search is not a search engine, and hence not positioned as a
direct competitor to Google. It will answer searches for places, interests or pages that already
exist in Facebook, not links. But it does represent a risk to sites such as Yelp, LinkedIn and
Match.com. Time will tell to what extent.
Repercussions for Advertising
The emergence of social media has raised tremendously the power of word-of-mouth. Graph Search allows users to find restaurants, shops and other businesses depending on their friends and common-interests, people, and experiences, which can represent a huge advantage to advertisers if used well.
On the other hand, some of the users who have had the pleasure of already using Graph
Search have mostly said that it wasn’t a huge advance for users. But for brands, the tool could
allow more focus in audience searches and be able to target their communications much better.
In conclusion, it is too early to deliver a verdict on Graph Search but it is an exciting step ahead,
one on which we will keep a close eye!