Facebook’s high level goals have always been centered on creating more connections, creating more interactions, and getting people to stay logged into Facebook for longer periods of time. As Forrester’s Nate Elliot pointed out, “Facebook’s worst nightmare is a static social graph”, which is a very real concern.
Facebook introduced Graph Search which enables users to search their own social graph; spending more time on Facebook and finding more people to connect and interact with. The Graph Search appears as a larger search bar at the top of the screen. Searches are constructed using phrases (“which of my friends have been to AT&T Park” rather than “SF Giants”) and a series of filters. Although Facebook has made it clear that this is not an engine to search the web, it does apply competitive pressure to Google, Bing, and other search engines since this will potentially create more advertising opportunities on Facebook.
The new feature is currently in beta; if you want to take it for a test drive, you can request that here.
This new product is aimed at helping individuals discover more people and content to Like, comment on, or otherwise engage with. No new content is made available or public; it is just that which a person would already be able to see browsing around in Facebook. While making it easier to find friends that also love banjos or help to plan a Game of Thrones party, it could also turn into a way to easily find social recommendations for local businesses, much like what Yelp does but with more social context.
Facebook Graph Search will include paid results, such as Sponsored Stories. This paves the way to sell more of these ads as more people explore Facebook through Graph Search. It also sets the stage for future ad products that are even more targeted and personalized. Similar to Google, Facebook will be able to develop a database on how people search, in addition to the wealth of other knowledge they have on people.
In addition to the Yelp-like use case I mentioned above, Graph Search has implications for larger brands as well. Facebook is encouraging brands to “continue to invest in [their] page[s]”, making sure that all the information listed is up to date and as complete as possible. A brand’s content or pages can be populated in search results organically if they are relevant. For example, someone searching for “web development tools my friends like” might see the Adobe Dreamweaver page populated in the results. A search for “Creative events near me” could point the searcher towards the Adobe MAX page if they live in the area or if their friends have liked that page.
This would be a good time to make sure any information you have posted (like photos and interests) are up to date and still what you want to be shared. It is also a good time to review your privacy settings to make sure you are only sharing what you think you are.
For businesses, this will mean an increased emphasis on relevant content, complete profiles, and even fan counts, all of which will impact ranking. This also means it is important to make sure any off-Facebook sites that are linked to (like blogs or home pages) are optimized for Facebook sharing (i.e., meta data, preview images, etc.). As Facebook continues to develop its Graph Search, we will see more opportunities for brands to connect with and target specific customers, and see even greater importance placed on constructing a more relevant and engaging social presence.