(Most assuredly, the MySpace folks didn’t expect–nor likely appreciate–the Graph Search announcement to come the day of their relaunch, so there’s one exception.)
Graph Search allows users (or will, when it goes fully-live) to search Facebook for “smart” data, based on what it’s users “like.” It can show you an archive of photos you’ve liked, it can list restaurants in China your family has been to, it can showcase the gyms personal trainers who live near you belong to. All of these searches respect your privacy settings.
The power and influence is immense. Sort of.
A key downfall with Facebook Graph Search is that it’s limited to information that you (“you” being all of us) have given Facebook. If you don’t use Facebook to check-in at your local dry cleaners, Facebook Graph Search won’t be able to tell your neighbors you trust them with all of your clothes.
Think about all the stuff you DON’T put on Facebook for any reason.
So if someone is looking for their friends who are celebrating birthdays in a given month, and you don’t have your birthday on Facebook, don’t expect a card from them. One of the major criticisms of Google+ was that you had to categorize your friends into circles in order to see the most benefit. For Graph Search to work the way they propose it will, you have to enter incredible amounts of data. Will that be a barrier of entry?
While the Graph respects your privacy choices, “public” information has never been more public. Users will likely have to closely reexamine their privacy settings.
Who Benefits Most?
Without a doubt, Facebook benefits the most from search, as it ties their platform together in new ways. They hope that people will document more of their lives on Facebook, in order to make Graph Search more valuable for users, of course. In reality, it makes the entire platform more valuable for shareholders.
It creates new advertising inventory, as well. There will be some advertising included in Graph Search, although it’s currently limited to existing ad types. But, sure as the sun rises in the morning, a new type of ad will be released soon to take full advantage of the functionality.
I don’t begrudge them for increasing the value of their site one bit. Facebook is a business and a company that is in growth mode. And when you have over a billion users, the best way to grow is to deepen your relationship with each of them.
What Impact Does Graph Search Have On PR/Marketing?
Since Graph Search is still in private beta, it’s unclear how marketers can use it. But the opportunities abound:
Obviously, there will be a market research benefit. The entire platform will be searchable!
Graph Search is built upon social influence. Search queries include some subset of people, whether it’s all Facebook users or a breakdown of criteria from age, gender, marital status, relationship, location — or any other factor Facebook can search upon.
However, the influence appears to be unweighted, scientifically. Advice from a friend in one search won’t likely have any bearing on future searches, unless you include that friend as part of the search.
A sad truth is that this may force marketers to focus on quantity over quality of connections in order to build their graph presence. Having more connections will likely include you in more search results. Much like Edgerank moderates News Feed Optimization, we will be dealing with Graph Search Optimization in no time at all.
With all this being said, Graph Search is still one of the most exciting new Facebook products in years…even if it may be among the most frightening.