This is a snippet of a post written for the Wibiya blog. Please click on through for the complete post. Thank you to all my colleagues who contributed.
This post is a summary with a few initial thoughts. A complete Wibiya Hotsheet on this new platform for publishers and marketers can be found below this post.
What is Facebook Graph Search?
Facebook Graph Search is Facebook’s new search engine. At launch, Each user will see the results visible to them from across their social network, as well as content that has been shared publicly on Facebook. Results will display based on the level of relevant engagement from the Facebook community for each result.
For example, if I were to search for The best Mexican Restaurant in Manhattan, Facebook Graph Search will show the restaurants with the most likes, check-ins and comments above restaurants with less engagement.
Why is Search important to Facebook?
Graph Search presents a win-win for Facebook in terms of revenue as well as value to the Facebook user community.
From a revenue perspective, Facebook’s ads often promote native engagement (ex. likes, comments) on publisher/brand pages. By making engagement a primary influencer on search ranking, Facebook adds additional value to these paid engagements.
From a user perspective, this product could position Facebook an incredible go-to source for information based on the endorsements and actions of their friends. Additionally, a dedicated Graph Search mobile application could very well disrupt a number of industry leaders, particularly in the location space (ex. Yelp!).
What opportunities does Graph Search open to publishers and marketers?
Firstly, it is important that publishers and marketers remember that Graph Search is an unreleased product. We do not yet know how the public will respond or how large of an opportunity Graph Search Marketing will prove to be. That said, the same tactics that will improve one’s Graph Search ranking will also boost the value of your social engagement, so any efforts or funds invested will not be wasted.
Facebook is placing incredibly prominent focus on engaging people. Publishers and marketers must focus on both growing the number of likes for their page, as well as additional likes, comments, shares and engagement with their content. Based on the product unveiled today, a single great meme could propel a publisher or marketer to a top search ranking. While we anticipate that Facebook will adjust their algorithms to account for blips of activity, publishers and marketers must focus all of their Facebook efforts on generating engagement. Additionally, when a fan shares content, each additional like will add to the overall page engagement and improve the pages visibility.
In today’s demo, it was clear that searches for videos include videos shared by brand pages. Publishers and marketers should carefully consider the exponential power of images and video, as each engagement will boost the brand page’s rank as well as improve the likelihood of the video appearing in search results.
Additionally, all publishers and marketers should consider the role that Facebook’s Places could play for their brand. While many would consider a dentist a service, including a Places location on their Facebook page will increase organic Graph Search visibility. Please see the technology opportunities question below for additional information.
Finally, publishers and marketers should consider the value of Facebook advertising to boost likes and engagement with their pages and with their contents. This media will now serve a dual purpose – increasing engagement with their content as well as boosting Graph Search Visibility.
What are the technology opportunities for publishers and marketers?
Graph Search is a huge step forward in building personalization engines on top of Facebook data. If and when Facebook makes a Graph Search API available, developers will be able to develop unparalleled personalization and active design tools for third party websites.
In the interim, be sure to include the appropriate social plugins on your website and list your location in Facebook Places.
What kind of data will Facebook Graph Search cover?
At launch, Facebook Graph Search will cover four primary areas: people, photos, interests and places.
This covers searches such as “Friends of friends who went to Harvard and live in Istanbul”, which would display the results for all people who went to Harvard, live in Istanbul and are in your extended social network.
People search could be great for social networking, recruiting or dating. For example, recruiters who are friends with the employees could discover potential candidates who are friends with current or past employees. Adding criteria such as positions held, universities attended, current or previous employers could prove to be great tools for encouraging peer recruitment. This same could method could easily be applied to dating (though likely skipping some of academic criteria – unless that’s your thing). In this case, one could search for friends of friends who are single, live in their area, are a certain gender and have certain interests.
This platform becomes particularly interesting as Facebook is rumored to be testing a platform that allows users to pay for the ability to message someone outside of their network, opening the possibility to tap into LinkedIn-like revenues.
Searches for photos allow filtering by location or type of location (ex. natural parks). This looks to be interesting for travel planning as well as image discovery. By adding parameters such as “Photos from friends I’ve known since before 1990” or “Photos I’ve liked” people can gain better insight and inspiration from their own world.
Photo search includes all photos on Facebook that the user has rights to view, such as photos that friends have shared with them and photos shared with the public. The search results are displayed in a similar manner as leading image search providers.
Interest searches allow people to discover information about the interests shared among their network. For example, one could search for “Movies my friends like” to find new movies to stream on Netflix. Additionally, searching “Videos my friends have liked” will show results for videos that can stream in Facebook.
Searching for places will show listings on the left, a map on the right and a number of filtering criteria including place type, liked by, places in a given location, and placed visited by (one’s friends) below the map.
In this context, likes for places become endorsements by one’s friends. For example, if one searches for a dentist in their area, the dentist with the most likes will be listed first. Additionally, if users were to add criteria such as “Restaurants liked by graduates of the Culinary Institute or fans of Top Chef”, Facebook could discover the restaurants most liked by foodies. Or if one is traveling and wants to drink like a local, they can search “Bars liked by people in Dublin”.
Places search is a strong differentiator for Facebook that could grow to become a Yelp! Or FourSquare competitor.
How will the public respond?
Facebook Graph Search will be sure to inspire a high degree of media hype, as well as the negatively hyped counter-coverage. It is important to remember that this is a beta product and will evolve. Graph Search holds an incredible amount of promise and will likely delight many while some will remain confused or frustrated while Facebook irons out the kinks.
While we have seen near constant complaints of late from many lawmakers and pundits that Facebook doesn’t “get” privacy, Facebook looks to be planning significant and ongoing privacy education for their users. We do not believe that privacy will be a primary concern for this product.
Some users will likely be confused by Facebook’s lack of a search box and may not know how to access this product. We anticipate enough media hype and in-product messaging such that most users will grow to rely on Graph Search fairly quickly.
While the quality of the output of this product has yet to be seen, we believe that the filtering tools on the results page could confuse or overwhelm the novice users. This however, is speculation that may prove unfounded when the final product is launched.
One area that is sure to delight the media and inspire many a conversation, are the discovery capabilities in Graph Search. For example, searching for “Music liked by people who like Mitt Romney” and comparing it to “Music liked by people who like Obama” is sure to inspire some conversation.
Special thanks to Alon, Dror, Sivan and Ran for all their great help in pulling this together.