Social Search Engine: Graph Search Game Changer
by Amanda Winters
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced of Facebook’s latest social search engine innovation, dubbed the “third pillar” in its network alongside News Feed and Timeline: Graph Search. Graph Search introduces a new kind of search technology that enables users to search in four different categories: people, places, photos, and interests. This is a new kind of social search experience because it:
- Prefers specific, natural language,
- Cross-references public information found on Facebook profiles,
- Provides the user with an actual answer as opposed to links to other websites.
Unlike general web searches, Social Search Engine takes into account relevancy, connections, and intent in a user-specific way. Currently still in its beta phase, Graph Search is slowly rolling out, with constant changes and revisions being made to perfect the search’s intuitive nature, given user activity. As Graph Search becomes more public, users will be made aware of how impactful their security settings truly are to make any personal (privacy) changes.
What does Graph Search mean for Google, Yelp, and LinkedIn?
Given its infancy, any search that cannot be found using Graph Search at the moment will be relayed over to Bing, to provide results. The reason as to why Facebook decided to team up with Bing as opposed to Google is a little murky with speculations of Bing being more flexible to Facebook’s technical and privacy needs than Google’s complex algorithmic network already in place. Given Facebook’s pairing with Bing, Google faces a unique competitor with Graph Search.
According to Lavall Chichester of Social Search Digest blog: “Facebook Graph Search is here and that means the blend of Social Media and SEO can no longer be ignored. Google’s attempt at social search is a big deal. Authorship markup gives you the ability to improve your websites rankings organically and has been known to increase click through rates by 30% in the organic SERPs. The only thing that over shadows Google’s social search function is Facebook’s Graph Search.”
Although Google provides a different scope of results than social search engine, Google cannot access information found using Graph Search. Google’s results are broader, span a further reach, and are more objective. On the other hand, Graph Search is more contextual and relationship-oriented, drawing on public profile information privy to the site.
In addition, as Steven Levy from WIRED notes, Graph Search has three shortcomings that need to be addressed:
- You can only search in English,
- Profile posts and status reports are not currently indexed to be referenced properly in searches,
- Information third-party applications provide are not yet integrated in providing search results.
Considering Graph Search is still in its early stages and has distinct differences that sets itself apart from Google, it is currently unclear how Graph Search will impact Google.
In the end, Yelp may actually be more effected by Social Search Engine than Google. Yelp investors were so worried after the initial unveiling of Graph Search, that Julianne Pepitone of CNNMoney reported that Yelp stock sank 8.5%. By nature Graph Search is well-equipped to handle searches referencing places and locations Facebook friends frequent that can then serve as personal recommendations. However, as Colleen Taylor of TechCrunch points out, what really makes Graph Search a contender against Yelp is its interplay with “Nearby.”
Facebook launched Nearby last December, a component found on mobile applications that enables users to check in, find where their friends haverecently checked in, search for locations in the area, and access hours of operation, ratings, likes, and number of visitations from their friends. The combination of Graph Search and Nearby can pose a competitive threat to Yelp due to its personal nature, with reviews and information relayed by friends holding more weight than those done by strangers. However, aside from some people preferring the nature of objective reviews, Yelp has a plethora of reviews that dwarfs the few
Nearby currently holds and is more fine-tuned to pull pertinent results for the user. Few people know or use Nearby at the moment, but it has the potential to be a powerful tool for local businesses wanting to gain both awareness and reach. One person checking into a local restaurant using Nearby, later becomes a Graph Search result for their Facebook friends, which then may pique their interest to try the restaurant and check in as well, causing a ripple effect for increased business.
Just like Yelp, LinkedIn may also face a new competitor with Graph Search. Social Search enables users to perform people-centric searches using public information, so while some can search for friends whom share the same interests, and even find potential dates, employers can look for applicants that posses a key skill, education level, or work background in a given area.
Employers can then contact attractive candidates through Facebook and set up interviews, cutting out the middleman while actually tailoring their search to their specifications. Likewise, those looking for jobs can now search for contacts in specific agencies and fields (as long as the information is listed publicly on their profile), networking in a personalized and convenient way. With Graph Search users don’t have to be introduced or pay a fee of any kind to access potential employers or employees, all they need is the idea of what they are looking for and the initiative to seek it. There are plenty of monetization opportunities for Facebook it it becomes social recruitment engine.
Facebook Social Search Engine’s Potential Double Life as a Marketing Research Tool
Graph Search Engine may also be used by Facebook as a data mining tool for market researchers. Researchers can use Graph Search to find relevant traits and common interests to draw upon and more effectively reach target demographics. For example, Rory Carroll of The Guardian reported that Tom Stocky, one of Graph Search Engine’s primary creators (along with Lars Rasmussen), demonstrated that using the tool, users can ask questions like, “What TV shows are most liked by software engineers,” and actually find the answer (which turns out to be the Big Bang Theory).
Being able to ask direct, specific questions that pertain to a particular key aspect, and in turn receive precise consumer behavior information with relative ease and no cost can be a marketing game-changer. Both large and small businesses have the same access to Graph Search, meaning that the big remaining question is not simply how companies will use Social Search Engine itself, but how will companies utilize the information found using Graph Search?
Amanda Winters (@AWinters9) is currently an Integrated Marketing graduate student at NYU. A caffeine-loving, New Yorker, with a passion for all things social media, and is currently focused on achieving her degree with a digital concentration. You can find more about her here