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Facebook Graph Search – What Does The Search Agency Think?

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2013 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Social Media

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When Mark Zuckerberg has something to say, we all listen. This was no different on Tuesday when he made some big announcements for the future of Facebook. The addition of the new Graph Search is the next step in Facebook becoming a contender with Google by finally taking advantage of their near decade’s worth of personal data. While these new features are at least a year out, with very limited beta testing right now, it’s definitely a huge step in the future of Facebook functionality.

I asked around the office for our resident search experts to weigh on the implications of this new search engine.

In its current release, Graph Search indeed looks to be a simple way to search through Facebook data, but limited to data to which you already have access. It doesn’t seem very exciting to me. Of course, the way most users will improve the reach of this tool will be through friend spam (the larger the friend pool the larger your results pool), further blurring the value of a social friend – but whatever, that’s not necessarily a negative for people already addicted to social media, now is it?  Does that comment make me sound old?  Out of touch? I’d like to look a bit more into the filter options, perhaps depending on what they allow here, it may be a more powerful tool than I’m thinking it is. Mark Fillmore, Senior Director Earned Media

I haven’t looked too much but upon first impression, I didn’t see any obvious “a-ha!” moments as it related to recommendations in our industry. I still have a lot of questions. Can this data be overlaid on search results in any meaningful way? Does Bing have the inside track to make this information useful in providing search recommendations via Facebook more than it does now? The approach possibly opens up a better opportunity (user experience) that might help local or geo based businesses via PLACES. 

PAGES is more murky to me; is that the same as PEOPLE? Is it different? FACEBOOK mentioned that it’s moving into competition with LinkedIn on the business side, but those are two worlds that have historically not gotten along.  It would be too much of a a challenge just in terms of how people like to manage their content about themselves into silos based on separation of interests. Keith Wilson, VP Agency Product

Photos of friends from before 1999…Scary thought! – Tamar Dilsizian, Manager Display Media

This will come in very handy when I’m trying to find that post my friend made a year ago, but I probably won’t use it as a general search engine the way I use Google. – Aryn Kennedy, Manager Editorial & Content

The winner here for me is Bing. When Graph Search—look out Graph Search Optimization!—cannot deliver an appropriate result, Bing web search results will be

shown, along with Bing Ads. (On a related note, does anyone know if the numbers reported by ComScore and others about Google/Bing organic search include Facebook searches that used Bing web search?)

The loser here for me is Internet users in general. “Zuckerberg reluctantly revealed that negotiations with Google that would have allowed the search giant access to Facebook results had broken down.” Google SPYW with Twitter and Facebook data is something I wish existed. Bing has a lot of this functionality, but so far it hasn’t been enough to pry me away from Google.

The two biggest opportunities are features not yet available; Paid Ads in Graph Search and inclusion of Open Graph actions. Benefits of paid ads are obvious; the more targeted the search intent, the more relevant ads can be shown. If I’m searching for restaurants in L.A. that my friends like, Los Angeles restaurants who advertise on these keywords should have some pretty solid CTR/engagement. Think of the possibilities if you include social extensions; not only am I paying for a highly targeted ad but it also has the social proof of showing the searcher likes from their friends on that restaurant!

Open Graph actions allow passive inclusion into the social graph. For instance, I have Hulu connected to my Facebook account. So, theoretically, my friends using Graph Search looking to see what TV Shows their friends like have all sorts of data about shows I like even though I have not liked any of their fan pages. Advertisers can target my friends with New Girl ads all day (don’t judge me!) and the only action I took was a one-time permission acceptance

The last thought I’ll throw out there is this is a minor bump of value for the like and having a Facebook page in general. Previously, if a Facebook user liked a restaurant page and then never interacted with it again, it’s value was more or less one and done. Through Graph Search, the like has more permanence in the sense that there is the opportunity for the person’s friends to see this and be driven to some beneficial advertiser action. – David Carrillo, Manager Earned Media

Middle of last year The Search Agency was asked “what’s next? on Facebook search and the potential competition with Google search. We correctly predicted a social graph type search based on a “Like” system, Open Graph, user profiles, and other data it has acquired.  The Bing-specific announcement, appears to be more putting lipstick on a pig that a major added feature. Facebook has been leveraging Bing search as a fallback for a while, and I would expect that relationship to continue while both companies see positive revenue opportunities in piggy backing. 

So what does this mean for SEO? We talk about SEO through a “Search Everywhere Optimization” lens, and it really is about where people are searching, and what they’re searching for. There may be opportunities around Bing optimization via alignment with Facebook filters or other modifier opportunities we can glean over time; it’s still too early to assess with the limited information and deployment. The primary difference between Google and Facebook still comes down to a) inferred personalization (with some Google+ influence) versus b) Facebook’s defined personalization (based on data you provide) – Grant Simmons, Director SEO and Social Product

I think this announcement fits in with a larger narrative of the power of ideas and the fragility of individual companies. A second story that is not directly related to Facebook, but to this greater narrative is about how Apple reduced orders of iphone 5 parts yesterday. There is a high level of impermanence with all of these companies, but there is a high degree of permanence in the services they offer. People will always want social networks, search, cutting edge hardware etc., but the companies that provide these will continue to come and go, even if the thought of Facebook becoming irrelevant is unimaginable today. The almighty Apple is seeing the loss of its invincibility, with the failure of its maps and the recent perception that the company is currently lacking in innovation. This launch may be hailed as a great moment in the history of Facebook, or it may be looked upon as a great flop, we will let the revisionist historians be the decider of that. All we can say for sure is that people are generating content at a faster and faster pace and are interested in more efficient and interesting ways to organize their content.  Perhaps a relative unknown will have an idea  that challenges and eventually over takes the market. Only time will tell.

A second point this story brings up is the issue of privacy and content ownership. There is basically no regulation on personal data in the US, and the EU has only recently set standards. But to me, the ability to search content of you and your friends is going to put more pressure on US regulators to act one way or another to monitor this environment. If the ability to easily search content startles people it will spell bad news for Facebook and likely hasten the pace and scope of subsequent regulation, probably in proportion to the profitability of the new product. There is a great deal of uncertainty around this launch but the only thing we can be certain of is that 80% of searches will be conducted by 20% of users. Max Roessler, Marketing Analyst

What do you think about Facebook’s new foray into search? What are the implications? What will we see in the next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

About Heather Sundell

Heather has five years of experience in online and offline marketing. She graduated from The University of Southern California with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and absolutely no idea how USC football works. An aspiring cyclist, blogger, and cheese enthusiast, she is currently honing her Gen Y skills by doing all three at once.

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