Today, Facebook announced that it will start rolling out search. On first glance this might not seem like such a big deal, after all there already is a nice little search box on Facebook already. However, graph search is an entirely different search for things on Facebook.
Presently the Facebook search box does one thing well, it helps you search for friends or people you might want to friend. It helps you answer the question, what ever happened to______? Once we find those people we are able to connect with them and start to share our lives. The next step in that relationship is going to be powered by Facebook search. And it let's you ask A LOT more questions
What graph search will be able to do (so we are told) is to search though all your friends activities from when they have been on Facebook and come up with a list of things you may be looking for. Think about it this way, it makes everything you and your friends and their friends' activities searchable and discoverable. For example:
- People - People who live in my city and likes to hike, or people who live in my city and are single, or people who like to fish, etc.
- Pictures - Look for a particular picture taken on a particular date or of a particular object like the Sydney Opera House
- Places to go - Stuck in a city - find a place people in your circle have been and recommended
- Movie, Music and TV show to watch - what shows are big with your family, close friends, or their friends?
- Services - Looking for a dentist? See who has recommended and how many dentists have a lot of "likes"
The search results that come back are the recommendations within Facebook. Unlike Google that redirects you to another site from its search results, Facebook wants to keep you in their walled garden a little longer. Also, all of the information in Facebook is not publicly available and is unique to you and your circle of friends which may make it a better source of "local" knowledge than Yelp or Google.
Facebook is making a big bet that the data they have been collecting will be able to inform those searches. If the search comes up empty, then Bing which is a Facebook partner will search the web. My guess is that more most things it will not come up empty. They just have too much information on what people have done over the last few years.
What this means for marketers and business is still a little foggy as the product is brand new and will likely be improved in the months and years to come. However, what we can surmise, is that marketers and business that have invested in Facebook should be rewarded early as they will appear in search results and most likely higher in each result based on likes, the posts they made, check-ins and recommendations. Those businesses that have not invested or ignored their social media are going to be forced to play catch up in a hurry so they can get ranked in Facebook searches.
It is not surprising given the number of ex Googlers at Facebook that they have made search a priority. Over the next couple years, this search will improve. What any business should keep in mind is that just like SEO for a website, they will need to be vigilant about their social media and particularly Facebook. Ensuring you spend time on Facebook every day or pay someone to do it for you will ensure your business is found soon via Facebook.