The announcement of Facebook’s newest feature has had the world of social media abuzz with rumours and predictions. The world’s largest platform has finally found a use for the deluge of data they have collected over the years and much like the Google Knowledge Graph, the Graph Search works on a basis of connection, from one piece of data to the next.
In order to make sense of the huge treasure pot of social information harboured by the platform, the Graph Search creators at Facebook have divided all information into four categories; People, Photos (and videos), Places and Interests.
The Graph Search bar is far more advanced than that on offer currently and is designed to give highly precise search results. The Graph Search is presently in Beta and is only open to a few thousand people, unsurprisingly, in the USA. You can sign up to the waiting list and get more information on the functions here.
Facebook have also issued this Youtube video:
There is a plethora of potential in these uncharted waters and it seems Facebook are not taking this prospect lightly; in fact, John Battelle of battellemedia.com reported that:
“According to the folks I spoke to yesterday, Facebook’s mercurial founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls Search the “third pillar” of the company’s service, elevating it to the level of Newsfeed and Timeline, the two most important new features since Facebook’s launch (Open Graph is probably up there as well, but it’s true value remains locked up until there is mortar connecting it all, which Search could well be).”
Whilst there are plenty top quality how-to guides out there, here at Branded3 we are much more concerned with what the new tool means to marketers and how brands can best utilise the new search to its full potential and engage with their target audience on a more refined level.
The first thing to note would be the fact that Facebook does currently offer a lot of paid services for advertisers that feature advanced demographic mapping capabilities, so the information is out there, but it comes at a price. The advanced nature of the Graph Search on the other hand, could mean that marketers are able to at least pinpoint audiences for free.
The Graph Search feature has seen Facebook being pulled further into a position equivalent to Google+ and their own version of social search; Google Plus Your World, which was rolled out over a year ago and continues to grow. Naturally, comparisons of the two platforms continue to pop-up.
The difference between the social search efforts carried out by Google and that by Facebook, is the fact that Facebook has already done all of the leg work, they have their Open Graph filled to the brim with social information and more importantly social search queries, Google on the other hand, is coming at it from the opposite direction, and is just starting to accumulate the type of data that has been at the fingertips of Facebook developers for years.
Another note on Google in general is the fact that, if a result cannot be garnered from the Graph Search, Facebook will display search engine results instead and that the results will be powered by search competitors Bing. Although Graph Search is within its nascence and has a lot of learning to do, marketers should take note at this point to keep their SEO effort strong and that this link further galvanises the relationship between the two disciplines.
Other points to be taken into consideration from the perspective of a brand are firstly, the Graph Search cannot be used by someone logged in as a brand page; it has to be a personal account to search.
Secondly, brands should be aware that there may be an element of social SEO that comes into play, for example if I search for a restaurant my friends ‘Like’ in Leeds, the top spot will more than likely be reserved for the restaurant that has the most amount of ‘Likes’ within the city radius, this could be Facebook’s effort into upping the value of a ‘Like’, a concept that has fallen slightly into disrepute in recent months.
It seems that your social SEO effort will be fairly simplistic, surely if you follow the rules of Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, ‘Likes’, engagement and reach, you will be winning on the Graph Search results pages. But does this open the Graph Search up to black hat social SEO? How Facebook will deal with these issues remains to be seen.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, marketers should note that while the Graph Search does not offer sponsored search currently, Facebook are not the type of organisation who would miss a trick, I don’t think it will be too long before we see a sponsored result or PPC style system in place on the Graph Search results page.
Marketers may be swayed into splitting their paid search budget between Facebook and search giants such as Google which could lead to a drastic change in the search eco-system as a whole.