The Facebook Graph Search Product for 2013
Facebook Graph Search
Since its inception back in 2004, Facebook has been the leading social media site across the globe and as of 2012, it reportedly has over 1 billion active users. It’s influence in the online marketing and the SEO world is undeniable and now, Facebook has taken a new step, from social media into social search.
In January 2013, Facebook launched its new local search feature, “Graph Search,” much to the delight (and criticism) of users, analysts and search experts around the world. Although only in the public beta testing phase (and only available to English users at present), Graph Search allows users to conduct local searches on Facebook using simple words and phrases, similar to the way they would search for something via a search engine.
The biggest difference here, however, is that the results are predominantly personalised and Facebook specific. So, users are given the opportunity to search the entirety of their Facebook history, activities, photos and posts (including any information that’s been shared with them) and discover common interests, favourite venues, old photos, best apps, liked places or new people, based on what their friends have done, “Liked” or commented on in the past.
Facebook’s examples of these types of searches include: “Restaurants in London my friends have been to” or “Photos of my friends in New York,” or even, “Single people in my city who like dancing.”
In a way, Graph Search is a kind of a local search tool that allows you to sort through the plethora of Facebook activity to find exactly what you’re looking for, without having to scroll back through 2010’s posts or spend hours hunting down which of your local friends also enjoy going to the theatre.
How Are Results Ranked?
Facebook “Likes” and “Check-ins” also play a huge role in the ranking of results. So, for example, if you were to search for something like, “cocktail bars in my home town,” the cocktail bars that have been most “Liked” by your friends or that have received the most “Check-ins” from your connections will show at the top of your results.
But what if your search terms do not relate to anything that on Facebook? If, for instance, Facebook can’t find any of your “single friends who like dancing,” your results will come straight from a web search engine – Bing (Bing, of course, is run by Microsoft, and Facebook’s partnership with them is no secret). This could spell a little bit of possible stormy weather for Google, especially since Google isn’t able to access the huge amount of personalised information that Facebook has (unless it’s also on Google+ or in a Gmail), but overall, it doesn’t appear Graph Search will pose much of a major threat to the world’s largest web search company.
Is Graph Search Good Enough?
However, despite its search efforts, Facebook has also come under much criticism regarding its new feature. While the potential here is huge – such as the ability for Facebook to provide services similar to a dating site or even become a professional networking tool like LinkedIn – many analysts feel that Facebook’s results are simply not accurate enough to provide users with comprehensive or correct information.
This is mainly attributed to the fact that (a) people do not necessarily share everything they do on Facebook, and (b) people don’t always update their personal information for the Facebook world to see (e.g. their relationship status, job, religion etc.). Lance Ulanoff also put the quality of Graph Search’s results under fire in his recent post on Mashable, praising the functionality but claiming that “the quality of the results ain’t great. It’s just an endless number of Facebook pages that have little relation to your query.”
What About Facebook Privacy?
As always with Facebook, there’s also some speculation around the issue of Privacy when it comes to Graph Search, especially in regards to how a user’s personal information is shared and discovered by others. Facebook claims that any information you see will only be information previously shared with you – you’re simply searching what you already have access to. Graph Search “respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook,” Facebook says. “It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.” If any users have forgotten to set any of their shared information to private in the past, however, they can expect it to be included in search results.
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