On January 15 Facebook announced Facebook Graph Search, a search engine that uses interactions between users and content on Facebook to produce relevant search results. Those who work with data from social media will know that the potential of Facebook’s social graph is mind-boggling. What Graph Search does is make the data in Facebook more accessible so it can used to understand customers, prospects or stakeholders better, and build relationships that are more mutually beneficial.
How Graph Search works is covered on many other blogs and in Facebook’s own announcement. I haven’t had access to Graph Search yet, although I’ve submitted my request to be included in the beta. Nonetheless, I’d like to speculate how PROs and marketers might use it, so here are a few searches that might be interesting for businesses with a presence on Facebook to try out:
- What photos do people who have liked my page like?
- What photos do people who have liked my page commented on?
- What do people who like my company like?
- What do people who like my competitors like?
- What do people who like specific industry experts comment on?
How would you use these searches? Maybe for ideas for blog posts, press releases, infographics or even product ideas? If you’re hiring then Facebook also has potential to help you identify candidates. Try a few of these:
- Who has worked for Company X and Company Y?
- Who works for Company Z and lives in my city?
- Who went to a specific university or college and is interested in, say, PR?
In their announcement Facebook provides other examples of searches that include:
- software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing
- people who like tennis and live nearby
- photos of my friends before 1999
- cities visited by my family
- Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India
- books read by CEOs
- friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park
Note that last one. It will be very interesting to see if the friends of friends search also includes the ability to search across friends of those who like an organization’s page.
Initially Graph Search is focusing on people, photos, places, and interests, but even with just those to search on the permutations are many and varied, and finding the right questions to ask will be crucial. (Organizing an awards ceremony and you want to make sure you provide music most people will enjoy? Ask Graph Search what music people who like your event page listen to.)
In a stroke Facebook has multiplied the value of a Like or a comment for businesses. Before Graph Search these might have been nice-to-haves for many, a measurable but not very tangible metric for social media campaigns. Now they are vital signals in Facebook’s search algorithms that are likely to spawn a whole new algorithm-chasing field of Facebook Optimization (FBO?). Of course all this speculation is entirely dependent on the quality of a user’s Like, but if you have genuine fans who genuinely follow your company then the Graph is going to pay you back many times for your best-practice social media engagement.
So how relevant is this to businesses really? In particular B2B businesses. Won’t all the search results be about people’s personal stuff? And won’t people have privacy issues with marketers or others tapping in to their streams? Isn’t this just spooky, if not outright scary?
From a privacy perspective, the lines between personal and public on Facebook are very blurry and people are understandably sensitive to perceived invasions of their privacy. This makes it all the more important for organizations to be clear on their policies regarding privacy and social media and to deal with questions on this topic as openly and honestly as possible.
It’s certainly not the only way to find out what your customers and prospects are interested in, and it should never be your only source, but Graph Search has the potential to provide a unique perspective.
Is it relevant to all organizations? Absolutely. This has been positioned by Facebook as a beta product, so we should expect it to change, possibly radically, over the next year. But if your organization doesn’t have a Facebook page and isn’t seeking to build relationships on Facebook, then you should seriously think about doing something about that.