January 25, 2013

Facebook’s first steps away from social and into the world of search are filled with potential.

If Facebook gets Graph Search right, search may no longer be dominated by Google. Given the volume of data Facebook has at its fingertips, the social giant has a better chance of bringing friends’ recommendations into search results than Google.

Google already incorporates some social signals in its algorithm, such as whether or not someone in your social circles has given a +1 on Google+ to a particular result. At present this has yet to be proven useful to most.

Facebook’s Graph Search, rather than indexing the web, will allow users to discover content within Facebook, personalised to each user based on their friends, location, likes and other connections.

Likes and check-ins will become more important to acquire, requiring brands to invest more in their social strategies. They will need to make sure their social customer experience and engagement online is compelling enough to earn a like or recommendation.

With Graph Search, brands will be able to leverage their reach and connect with friends of existing fans in a more timely and relevant fashion.

So, if Graph Search works then Facebook really has hit the nail on the head with social search. The main challenge in my opinion is changing users’ behaviour on the platform. Facebook needs to encourage users to not only be more open with content, but also to provide more signals of the kind that will be picked up by Graph Search such as likes, check-ins, shared photos and fully filled-out publically searchable profiles.

Facebook also has to convince users to search for personal recommendations. For example if I was to search for “Italian restaurants my friends like in London”, would I trust my Facebook friend’s taste and opinion? Maybe, if they were foodies or Italian, but I still think I’d find myself double checking on Trip Advisor.

As Facebook indexes more types of content and Open Graph actions the range of information and level of granularity for Graph Search will become more and more powerful.

The time it takes to map this content will be key to Facebook’s success, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.


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