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Giacomo Balli
Innovation consultant specializing in mobile strategy
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Everything you need to know about Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph search logo

Facebook now aims at being the social search engine and made it clear when it announced its very own Graph Search on Jan 15th (pictures form official press event here). While not directly competing with Google, it is certainly trying to get a good chunk of it share. Currently Graph Search is available in beta to a very limited number of users (Mashable is among these and you can check out their experiments). You can sign up for the mailing list and be notified when you're able to use it. By the time Graph Search is available to all users, it's possible that brands will have the ability to single out both their most engaged followers and potential fans and target them for special deals, promotions and other offers. Gizmodo already provided bullet points of the basics, so we won't review them again.

Facebook search was somewhat useless until graph search arrived. This is about change and go from zero to hero allowing you to create cross-searches using People, Places, Photos and Interests as criteria. An easy example of its use would be to find friends in a certain city when travelling (unless you like to use Donca for iPhone). The "big deal" with the introduction of facebook graph search is that also users outside of your circle of friends will be included in the results. Here are some curious insights that will give you an idea of the power of Facebook graph search (while still in beta): The period of beta is definitely important to spot bugs and fix issues. However, another important aspect Facebook is keeping in mind is studying user behavior and learn how people use the service. This will allow them to better cater to them and ideally come up with new features or services. A problem with the results returned by facebook graph search could definitely be insight taken out of context as Gizmodo points out. However, as we all know these are certainly not the problems that social media marketers are concerned about. A potentially useful search could be "Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India", as suggested by Mark Zuckerberg himself. This points out how crucial it is, now more than ever, for business to have a strong facebook presence. In addition, in the near future we might see the possibility to advertise directly next to search results (just like Google does). Some even say that stories never "seen" by the people involved are being used. Facebook graph search is disruptive even before it hits the industry. Just to mention a few sectors that will inevitably be affected by facebook graph search: Luckily, all those startups whose core revolves around targeted facebook searches will not be swept away because odds are they are combined with other sources or leveraged in different ways. Gogobot, for instance, not only connects Facebook friends for travel recommendations, but also hosts tools for exploring and price checking. The online dating industry might actually be one of the most disrupted. There is a lot of money going around and Facebook could actually have a good shot at it. They offer all the basics (interests, age, location etc) but, as a bonus, you have an acquaintance level that is unprecedented by tapping into your actual friends (think of Yoke). Also, let's not fool ourselves: Facebook has been one of the most common flirting arenas even before graph search arrived. However, you also have to keep in mind how it could backfire. On "specialized" dating websites such as OkCupid or Match.com users expect to be contacted by stranger but it might be "creepy" on the good old facebook. In the end it's hard to say what will happen especially if we think of people bringing dating intention to other platforms (think Spotify or Highlight). Rather than killing startups and small services, Facebook is much more interested in poking the big players to get a chunk of their market and will certainly be able to. We already talked about dating and matchmaking sites. However, the main target is Google. Facebook provides a different approach to search but will definitely be preferred for a specific set of searches (as discussed above). google has immense search power but if you're looking for something very specific it requires some advanced skills and search techniques; Facebook's way introduced a "human" way of search, kinda like Apple did with Siri; as Zuckerberg himself explained, there are currently 39 search filters that can be mixed and matched to filter results. Google is also undermined by Facebook's partnership with Microsoft's Bing: when Graph Search results are satisfying, you are shown elements from Bing (engineers from both companies actually worked together for this to happen). When thinking of user recommendations Yelp! immediately comes to mind and it will definitely take a hit. In fact, as soon as Facebook made its announcements Yelp's stocks fell 8%. Perhaps not affected right away, also Foursquare might be endangered. If the whole recommendation system takes off then users might have an incentive to checkin at places they like using Facebook rather than Foursquare. These other big players still have good competitive advantage (although not sure how fair it is to compare since Facebook Graph Search is still in beta). This is could boil down to the fact that Facebook has "general" social data whilst competitors have specific "relevant" data: liking or checking in a place is not the same as rating and reviewing it. The name itself, facebook graph search, was a no brainer: graph is the set of APIs made available to developers to create apps. However, it is also quite a "generic" name. Funny suggestions for it already started coming up (the most voted seems to be "fThat") ;) If you weren't already creeped out by the quantity and quality of data Facebook owns about you, Facebook Graph Search will bring everything to a whole new level by making research extremely powerful, relevant and easy. You should definitely take a look at your privacy settings. You might not care about going super paranoid but it's always good to know who can see/store/use what you're sharing. In addition, you might not be interested in dating new people so perhaps would rather not be included when someone searches for "hotties in my city". The common elements you want to verify are: Otherwise you might end up "over sharing" like these people. Curious to see Mark Zuckerberg when he was a kid? Just to be clear, Facebook Graph Search doesn't expose "new" information, it just makes what you're already sharing with someone easier to find which could be, for example, perfect for journalists. If you wish to see some really creepy search (such as "Mothers of Catholics form Italy who like Durex") there is a whole tumblr for that. Another element that proves how disruptive this is for the online world is its potential. This was a big step to tap into strangers' knowledge but there still aren't any new features to directly interact with them: there could be a whole lineup of new features that will be gradually introduced as Facebook always does. Facebook Graph Search shows Facebook's continuous strive to innovate but surprisingly not everyone expect it to be  a new medium for monetization, just think of the new opportunity for ads and sponsored results. Not sure if they actually don't see it or just trying to be controversial. It's hard to doubt its potential, Facebook also already changed the logo on the sign at the entrance of the headquarters.

#facebook graph search
Published: Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:51:25 +0000