by Anna Julow
January 18th, 2013
During the much-hyped Facebook press event on Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg announced improvements to what’s being called Graph Search—the ability to search within your Facebook “social graph” for answers to questions posed in plain text. For instance, type “people who like cycling” to see a list of all of your connections who like cycling. Add “and are from my hometown” to your search query to see who shares your hometown and your interest in cycling. This feature can also be used to locate photos based on date, find new music based on your friends’ interests, and check out restaurants based on location and Facebook friends who’ve checked in.
The latest Zuckerberg project is currently available in beta—you can sign-up on Facebook to be one of the first to get Graph Search.
Like most Facebook changes, Graph Search comes with curiosity and concerns. Although most have yet to use the feature, some argue that Graph Search isn’t really search at all, and that the name of this feature creates confusion. Others have cited privacy concerns and Facebook’s inability to play nice with the rest of the Internet as concerns about this new offering.
Chances are every Facebook user will have something to say as soon as the feature rolls out to the masses. However, for this post I looked to people who use Facebook everyday—personally and professionally—and who have been around for numerous other new Facebook feature introductions. I asked my BLASTmedia social media team colleagues for their thoughts on Facebook’s new Graph Search:
Heike Baird – It looks like a powerful search tool. As for privacy concerns, they’re warranted—but did you really think that anything you put on Facebook would remain private, anyway? If you want it kept under wraps, don’t let Mark Zuckerberg see it! With Graph Search, this advice is more pertinent than ever. Enjoy the new search functionality, but you may wish to take a peek through your timeline and do a little spring-cleaning.
Shelby Walton – With the addition of Facebook’s Graph Search, I think it will become more important for brands to optimize “About Us” sections, as well as picture and page descriptions, for specific keywords that users will be searching. People will be able to search so narrowly that brands may have the opportunity to position themselves to better show up in search results through pragmatic optimization.
Jacqueline Simard – Facebook’s Graph Search update will soon allow companies even more valuable (free) brand exposure to potential new customers, all while leveraging existing enthusiastic fans’ images. By properly listing the business in the proper company category, tagging photos with locations (especially brick and mortar stores), and including date proximities upon photo uploads, companies will serve up their content to inquiring minds looking for location- and niche-specific results (among others). In short, Jacqueline Simard “likes” this!
Blake Fife – Graph Search is redefining social search, and not because it’s search hosted on a social network, but because of how they aggregate results—truly based around your own personal network of friends. Google has been trying to do this, especially with the introduction of Google+. If Facebook’s Graph Search pans out, it may be the first “trusted” search engine. People will now be able to seek out new restaurants, music, and vacation destinations all based on real feedback from those they trust the most: their friends. I think Graph Search is and will continue to be a powerful tool.
Chrissy Astbury – Nobody does creepy like Facebook—well, except maybe Google. But seriously, the way people adapt new Facebook features is as predictable as the stages of grief: I’m creeped out now and I’ll be at peace with it—and using it—in 6 months’ time. Remember when the Zuck introduced Timeline? Or the first time he tweaked the privacy settings? Did anyone really stop using Facebook because Mark Zuckerberg stole all our photos? And anyway, Sir Zucks-a-lot says, “This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while,” and by “coolest,” he means, “You’ll learn to love it and I’ll pray it drives stock prices up.” Fair enough, Mark. Fair enough.
Leslie Saxman – I see the value in it. I think Yelp and FourSquare should pay close attention, but I don’t think it will make a blip in Google’s radar.
My take? I know there’s more on Facebook than meets the eye and Graph Search brings Facebook’s hidden utilities to the forefront. For example, just try entering Facebook.com/us and then replacing the name of your significant other with your best friend (as seen in their Facebook profile URL) and what pops up is a brand new, seemingly hidden, page about the two of you. Want to find someone who is between the ages of 24 and 30, lives in Indianapolis, and likes Jacksonville Jaguars? The Facebook ads platform won’t tell you names of these individuals, but it lets you target them. The way I see it, very few of the results that can be gathered from Facebook’s Graph Search appear to be anything new; they’re just in an easier to access package.
What do you think? Is Facebook’s Graph Search a useful new feature, or a privacy nightmare? Let us know by leaving a comment.