Facebook Announces Graph Search, A New Way To Discover

Today, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, took to the stage at company
headquarters to announce a third pillar to the Facebook discovery machine, Graph Search. Joining the Timeline and News Feed, Graph Search is designed to allow Facebook users the ability to filter and uncover relevant content within their own network of social connections.

In the simplest interpretation, Graph Search is a better way for Facebook users to find people, places and things that are of interest to them and the people in their social network. It also serves as a way for Facebook to keep people on its site while discovering this content, as opposed to leaving for Google or another property. For brands, there appears to be potential for Facebook to be utilized as a stronger local marketing tool. Over time, it would be fair to expect Facebook to take the intent users are expressing via Graph Search queries and transfer the data to an extension of the Facebook Exchange intent targeting capabilities.

The full Facebook blog post can be seen HERE.

What is Graph Search

Graph Search is the Facebook response to help users find answers directly from those individuals in their social network. This is in direct contrast to the Google model where users are given links and content to consider before clicking and evolving their decision making. With Graph Search, a user will be able to type queries into the search box located at the top of the site and get a more curated result set based on his or her own network. Type in “restaurants in Brooklyn” or “movies my friends like” and the user will get a result set off his or her network.

As shown below, users also now have the ability to filter their search based on a wide range of criteria.

 

For users, it is one more way to allow their Facebook graph to shape their activity. For brands, it is one more challenge in how to be present and considered when a potential customer is evaluating options.

The brand opportunity

For brands, the scale of immediate opportunity ahead with Graph Search will likely be dictated based on the importance of Local and Mobile access to their business. Initially, Graph Search is designed to focus on surfacing People, Places, Photos and Interests. The most compelling of those for brands will be Places at the outset. Per Facebook, the roll out will be slow with a U.S., desktop-only focus. Our expectation is a truly global, mobile implementation is at least six months away, if not longer.

Brands with brick and mortar locations, such as national retailers, restaurants, hotels and
entertainment, and others, will likely want to engage more fans to ensure that when someone is looking for a recommendation they are present. For years, Google has sold search based on the question “Do you really NOT want to be present when someone searches?” The same is true here,but now, the access to presence on the social network is through your Facebook fan base.

As users conduct queries and filter their network, they will be provided with results that include brand pages. An updated and accurate brand page is a must. Additionally, there are two ways by which a brand can show up in a Graph Search:

» Because the algorithm decides others in the user’s network are connected to a brand, or
» A brand must purchase a Sponsored Results ad, which is a pre-existing product launched last fall.

One secondary implication for growing a brand’s fan base and to be present more frequently is that a brand’s organic posts now reach fewer people, following a change to the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm in October 2012, and may require additional paid investment to increase exposure.

Additional Perspective

One of the unique challenges for many brands on Facebook has been identifying what a Facebook fan is worth. A lot of effort has gone into creating a ROI of a fan, and now, the ROI calculation is altered again with Graph Search. As brands think about people that follow them, it will no longer be a calculation of sales, but also a calculation of influence which may be exhibited through Graph Search.

Final Thoughts

This is version 1 of Graph Search. The next obvious component will be a mobile function. That is essential, so don’t dismiss the product until that arrives. From there , it is important to keep an eye on what user expression of intent can mean beyond the search component. If a user is searching for doctors or maternity clothes, the intelligence gained from those queries will not only shape the direct Graph Search results, but also allow for better FBX targeting. This could be a huge opportunity to translate Graph Search intent into highly relevant and timely targeting.

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