Facebook’s Smarter Search is Good For Business

Mark Zuckerberg unveils Facebook Graph Search. Photo: CNET.com

by Kara Martens and Kira Sparks 

Recently, Facebook announced some exciting news: Graph Search – a re-imagining of Facebook’s search capabilities that lets you find surprising new connections among people, photos, places and interests.

In essence, Graph Search makes it possible for users to “slice and dice” their unique data. Everything they’ve cultivated on Facebook for years – every Page Like, connection, photo, and more – will fuel their user experience.

Search based on “you”

Graph Search

Graph Search is already starting debates about how it compares to Google – which has also been shifting toward search customized to the user’s preferences and connections. In Facebook’s announcement post, Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen shared their viewpoint on the distinction between graph and web search.

“Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook.”

During the announcement, Zuckerberg shared a few ways graph provides a unique, customized search experience:

  • People: Learn more about your friends and what they like, such as “people who like biking and live nearby.”
  • Places: Discover businesses nearby or find connections between your friends and places, such as “Restaurants in Chicago my friends like.”
  • Interests: Discover new interests by learning more about your friends, like “Music my friends like” or “Books read by CEOs.”
  • Photos: Find pics of people or places – both friends’ photos and publicly available pictures.

 

In essence, graph empowers users to discover interests based on those of their friends. People no longer have to solicit recommendations via a one-time post, but can dig through historical data on their own to find what they want or need.

Why Brands May Benefit
While the implications of Facebook Graph in terms of the future of search are exciting and impressive, this new product brings up important points for brands. Like users, everything brands have done until this point will fuel how much they, too, will get out of Graph Search. This brings incredible value to understanding what a Facebook fan can do for a brand, turning it into usable data. Being connected to their true customers via Pages and Places will help brands be discovered in entirely new ways.

Check-ins and Page Likes matter more
Place is a key feature of this new search, giving users the ability to search for businesses and locations friends have liked or visited, such as “Indian restaurants nearby that my friends like.” This could give a big leg up to businesses with large fan communities and frequent check-ins by getting them in front of new faces.

Facebook’s wealth of data offers a wealth of insights
Facebooks users will be able to search for information about their friends, but also about groups of people with similar interests, for example, “TV shows liked by Software Engineers.” It remains to be seen exactly how robust this feature is, but if fully realized brands may have a new customer research tool at their disposal.

Keep Graph Search in Mind
Begin thinking about how you can assist customers with adding information to their Facebook activity to capture information about your business. Encourage check-in in the store, ask fans to upload pictures of themselves and tag their location.

Make sure you are doing everything you can to connect with real customers on Facebook. Graph Search will introduce you to your customers’ friends at a point when they are looking to use your products or services.

And if you’re not allocating enough resources to Facebook, either as a whole or on a local level, now is the time. Maintaining a solid Facebook presence isn’t just a nice thing to have, it could be a necessity for being discovered.

Graph search is currently in beta. You can join the waiting list for beta here.

What do you think about the news? What are the implications for brands?