When Facebook unveiled their new intuitive feature Graph Search, everyone immediately asked, “What about Google?” Although Graph Search has not yet been officially released, that hasn’t curbed speculation and predictions around its use, impact and effects on other search engines.
If you haven’t heard of Graph Search (where have you been?) it’s Facebook’s shiny new development. Simply put, Facebook’s Graph Search is a semantic search engine, meaning that its results take into consideration the context of the search and a user’s natural language rather than matching keywords. Graph Search returns personalised results for groups of people, places and things. Facebook’s Graph Search helps users find socially relevant information shared with them by friends or based on a given location. Is Graph Search a search engine game-changer or just another fun social media tool? Mercurytide’s verdict is in…
Benefits for Business
Anyone who regularly interacts with Facebook will know that being easily found relies on users typing your name correctly. Search has never been Facebook’s strongest attribute, and if you are trying to find ‘John Smith’ from NYC….you may be a while. However with Facebook’s new Graph Search, people, places and things are found in a different way. Searches are based on ‘natural’ language such as ‘best café in Edinburgh’ and results are returned according to relevancy – number of likes, engagement and proximity are all deciding factors.
As well as a greater online visibility, Graph Search offers businesses the opportunity to find out where their customers are and what they are doing. With one billion users now on Facebook, the opportunities for market research and reach are unrivalled. Graph Search allows businesses to find out what makes users tick; what gets shared and what gets the greatest positive response.
This also means that Facebook ads can be fine-tuned even further, to ensure you are targeting customers who are likely to interact with your page.
Will individuals Like it?
The searches that Graph Search can return know no boundaries. The newfound ability to access content that Facebook friends have liked is bound to impact decision making when it comes to brands, places and entertainment – making it more important than ever for businesses of all shapes and sizes to have a strong presence on the social media platform.
Choices are determined more and more by ideas generated from the activity of our friends. Popular searches by the Graph Search guinea pigs tend to involve things that friends have liked, placed they have been or things that they have done. For example, ‘movies my friends like’ or ‘places my friends have been’ can provide valuable information which will ultimately have an influence, or sway a user’s decision.
The new feature has only been rolled out to a selected group of English speaking users in America, known as ‘beta testers,’ and their usage has returned some embarrassing results. Search results have documented companies whose employees have liked inappropriate pages. This raises severe implications for users, who now have to be careful to employ strict privacy settings on all of their Facebook activity. Privacy settings need to be ramped up to ensure that sensitive content or results found by non-connections don’t exist.
Should Google be worried?
Although Graph Search’s ‘natural language’ tool is useful, it’s not helpful for searching for non-social information. For example, ‘How to complete a tax return?’ may not provide any usable results due to the social content that typically dominates Facebook. However, Facebook has a solution for this. As part of their partnership with Bing, any query that cannot be handled by Graph Search will return search results from Bing. Though useful, this may lead users to query why they are using Graph Search if they end up being directed to another search engine.
Consumers are used to search engines that they have been using for a number of years, and as the new kid on the block, Graph Search may find that old habits die hard. As the searches and results for Graph Search differ from the major search engines, users will have to learn how to get the most from this particular algorithm. Though incredibly useful in context, out with the boundaries of Facebook it is unlikely that consumers will use it in place of Google.
Graph Search is a new search engine contender that will benefit users and businesses that already interact regularly with Facebook. It will provide businesses with another means of targeting their audience and help consumers make decisions based on the preferences of their like-minded friends.
There is no denying that it has the potential to dent Google, but the significance of this will depend on its usability. Ultimately, it won’t be able to harm Google on its own – it needs the help of Facebook users for that. We are creatures of habit and Google is a convenience that we are used to turning to. During Graph Search’s Press event, even CEO Mark Zuckerberg recommends against using Graph Search as a Google replacement,
We wouldn’t suggest people come and do web searches on Facebook."
Due to the uproar regarding privacy issues on Facebook, Graph Search may initially find reluctance from users towards sharing and providing enough personal information to make its search results truly useful. As it stands, current beta users of Graph Search found that some locations bore limited information and their search query was in vain. Hopefully, once Graph Search is rolled out to all Facebook users, this issue can be overcome.
Overall, although Graph Search has its uses; Google’s search engine juggernaut is a force that is unlikely to be dethroned by Facebook anytime soon.
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