The Facebook Graph Search has now been available to users for nearly seven months and we've seen some positive feedback and some not-so-great comments from social media expert s, small businesses, and average users. Where the Graph Search is working and where the Graph Search is not working is particularly important for small businesses because it can change the strategy needed to succeed. Even though one tactic should have worked in theory, it's always a good idea to go back and re-asses whether or not you're on the right track-whether it was your fail or Facebook's.
A brief overview: You can read all about Facebook Graph Search and how it works in depth here. In short, the Graph Search is a search function now available on Google that allows users to type in queries and get answers based on their friends and connections engagement on Facebook. For example, a good questions for the Facebook Graph Search would be something like "good Italian places to eat in Chicago." Type this in, and Facebook will pull up restaurants where your friends have either checked-in, taken a photo of, or "liked" in the past (and they will tell you which friends specifically). Below is a screenshot of this exact question:
This new initiative is essentially Facebook's way of using the data they have available and making it useful to users. Those on the social network are there to connect and engage with friends, and this takes that idea to the next level. Sounds great, right? Yes, but as with all trials in a business, there have ups and downs.
Facebook Graph Search Successes
Below are a few of the things that have worked well for the Graph Search since it's launch:
- "Likes" earn more meaning. In the past, it was really tough for businesses to put a value on a Facebook "like." It was great because it means you were getting onto the homepage of more people, which could mean more clicks, but it seemed to stop there. With the Graph Search, the engagement on your site is helping you show up at the top of this new search engine. Suddenly, those "likes" seem to have more value than ever before.
- Easier Navigation. In the past, lots of information on Facebook could get lost in the shuffle (specific pictures, that one restaurant you liked last year, etc.). Facebook Graph has made it easier to dig up this information.
- Business Successes. Businesses are now more prevalent on Facebook than ever in the past. Users are typing in business-related searches more often; therefore businesses are getting more exposure. Although it might not be much and many agree that it isn't perfect, it's better than nothing and better than it was I the past.
How the Facebook Graph Search Needs to Improve
Unfortunately, there are a few things that the Graph Search feature still needs ironed out. Consider a few of the places where it didn't deliver:
- Privacy. Some people are not fans of their personal information showing up in search results. Although Facebook promises that only the information you have allowed others to see will be included in Graph results, many aren't even sure what that information is. Suddenly it's putting more pressure on users to check their privacy settings of every little thing they do, and most aren't too happy about it.
- Exact Matches. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said himself at the product launch that the new search feature is about "precise queries and exact matches." This isn't exactly what people want out of a search engine. Google will pull up related searches based on keywords, etc., but Facebook hasn't gone that far. It's annoying, and therefore isn't always the first choice for searchers.
The Graph search is certainly not trying to compete with Google, which you can read more about here. It is trying to do something different and become a different kind of search engine (probably a good idea to not try and compete with Google). Whether or not there is a need for this type of search engine is still up in the air.
Predictions for the Future of the Facebook Graph
Facebook is a social network that is constantly changing and working to improve, and although a few of their changes have had many up in arms (many of my own friends refused to switch to the timeline layout until they were finally forced), people always seem to come back. It's tough to say how long it will take for Facebook to perfect the Graph Search, but in my opinion, they will help make it happen.