Today I’m speaking at SES NY on the topic of Facebook Graph Search. I’ve had access to Facebook’s new search engine for a couple of weeks, albeit on a dummy/test account. Since Graph Search is not yet rolled out to everyone, there isn’t much insight into how it’s being used. For my panel, I needed to do some research. So, I created a usage survey to better understand what people are doing with Facebook Graph Search. Here are the results:
Is Graph Search Useful?
If Facebook is going to get people to use Graph Search, it ultimately has to be useful.
Most people using Graph Search see it as useful. And with this being the beta version, lacking several important search operators, its usefulness is expected to improve soon. The data could be biased towards “useful” due to the absolute nature of the available choices. Even if Graph Search isn’t extremely useful, it’s not necessarily useless. So, we’ll want to take this in the context of the rest of our survey results.
Graph Search Privacy Concerns
Anytime Facebook does anything it causes a whole slew of privacy issues. How are people feeling about privacy and Graph Search?
Interestingly, privacy is not a huge concern. It seems like the media has jumped on this more because it sounds like something to be afraid of, but regular people don’t seem all that concerned over privacy. This is likely why Facebook and others still get away with apparent invasions of privacy without causing a mass exodus from their service. People are very comfortable being shown in Graph Search results, which is good news for Facebook. In order to serve accurate results, Facebook will need as many willing participants as possible. This survey suggests they shouldn’t have a problem finding them among their billion+ members. Only a third admitted to feeling less protected thanks to Graph Search. Most felt that Graph Search didn’t change their privacy on Facebook, and some even feel more protected, perhaps because Graph Search allows users to easily check what they’re sharing with a simple query.
How are people using Graph Search?
An interesting takeaway here is that Graph Search is still predominantly a people search engine. Facebook has always been a preferred people search engine. So, while the advanced targeting options might make finding people easier, it hasn’t seemed to change people’s behavior too much; at least not yet.
Are Graph Search results accurate?
As part of the survey, I had people perform searches with a particular intent. They responded with the query used and then responded whether or not the search returned accurate results.
Accuracy is an issue. Google was able to dominate the market because they provided the right results to the user. They even had the “I’m feeling lucky” button to prove the point of how accurate their results were. Graph Search is only accurate about 70% of the time. That won’t cut it.
Looking over the particular queries people used, the biggest reason for this might be human error. People don’t seem to know how to use Graph Search yet. Perhaps relational queries are too complex for the average user. We’re used to a search engine where we just type what we want, like “pizza” for instance. I type “pizza” into Google and it will give me nearby results along with their star ratings and addresses. But in Graph Search I have to think about what would likely indicate a good pizza place. The queries can get very complicated.
The other issue at play could be the accuracy of social results in general. Are results by democracy necessarily better? The best pizza place may not be the one most of my friends like. And if you’re looking to discover something new, then popularity won’t be the answer to that search. Chances are you’ve already seen the movies most of your friends like. You’ve probably even watched a few with them.
Are people acting on Graph Search results?
Search is a valuable channel to marketers because it brings conversions. Will people be converting off of Graph Search? Or will it just be a better way of stalking people online?
Overall, people don’t seem to be acting off of their searches. People are not using Graph Search to inform their behavior. With Graph Search being new, this could simply be because people haven’t had the chance yet. They’ve researched, they’ve experimented with it. Perhaps these people will pick a movie or restaurant down the road because they came across it on Graph Search. As of now, though, there isn’t a lot of connection between a Graph Search query and a real life conversion.
Graph Search hasn’t rolled out to everyone yet, so it will be interesting to see what the reality of its use looks like as it becomes more widely available. As of now, the results from my survey have been interesting and have given me some useful insights.
Here’s the general demographic information reported from the survey.
Have you had a chance to play around with Graph Search yet? What are your thoughts?