Is Facebook's Graph Search a Google Killer?

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Is Facebook's Graph Search a Google Killer?Thanks to an audience of more than 1 billion monthly active members, Facebook doesn't just have big data, but rather access to an enormous amount of data. Better yet, the world's largest social network is finally ready to put that data to good use with the release of Graph Search. This has search and social marketers asking... are we witnessing the beginnings of a "Google killer?"

Is Facebook's Graph Search a Google Killer?

Thanks to an audience of more than 1 billion monthly active members, Facebook doesn't just have big data, but rather access to an enormous amount of data. Better yet, the world's largest social network is finally ready to put that data to good use with the release of Graph Search. While its certain that Facebook's Graph Search promises to be a game changer for search and social marketers alike, is it possible that we're witnessing the beginnings of a "Google killer?" Let's review.

What is Facebook's Graph Search?

Facebook's current search offering is only capable of turning up results for people, pages, groups, or apps before directing users on to Bing for a more comprehensive web-based search experience. Graph Search, however, aims to solve this problem by allowing users to conduct phrase-based queries and discover alternative information. This information is based on data that Facebook has collected from its members over time.

Graph Search is in beta and only available to a limited number of Facebook members. The feature focuses on four main areas: people, photos, places, and interests. With that, Facebook members will have the ability to place personalized searches for a variety of information that ranges from casual questions like "movies my friends like" to direct ones like "restaurants nearby."

For example, if I happened to be in the market for a new book and wanted to read something in which my friends have already read, I could place a search on Facebook for "books my friends like" and Graph Search will provide a personalized list of books that my friends have liked. In addition, search results will feature other data, including the names of friends who had liked a certain book and how many total likes each book has on Facebook.

Here is an example of Facebook's Graph Search in action:

Is Facebook's Graph Search a Google Killer?

It is well known that Facebook's mission is to make the world more open and connected, and Graph Search promises to play a major role in this idea by providing users with a new way to explore their connections. Graph Search is able to map out each user's relationships with people and the things they care about. This information, referred to as the graph, is big and constantly expanding with new people, content, and connections. Naturally, though, comes the next question... how will Graph Search impact businesses?

Graph Search and Local Searching

Consider for a moment that more than 600 million users visit Facebook on a daily basis. With the addition of Graph Search, isn't it likely that these users will have fewer reasons to use other location-based search services, like Yelp, Foursquare, and Google Maps, if they get better and more personalized results on Facebook? Why yes it is, and that is what makes Graph Search worth paying attention to.

Moreover, Graph Search compiles its results in a visually appealing way and provides users with key personalized information that is unavailable elsewhere, such as the names of friends who have liked or check into a business and when. In fact, knowing which of my friends liked what and when is far more important to me than a third-party review from some random person... especially, if we're talking restaurants and eateries.

That being said, if Graph Search truly does become the search feature that Facebook wants it to be, businesses with Facebook Pages will want to optimize their social strategies to ensure that their brand is among the top results when a search is conducted. However, appearing first in the search results may be easier said than done.

Optimizing for Graph Search

Although little is known about Graph Search, there are a few social best practices that Page managers should leverage now.

The most important thing to know about Graph Search is that likes will likely matter... a lot. Search results are based on Facebook's understanding of a brand's follower counts, which means that businesses with large fan bases will be more likely to turn up in the results for various searches. Additionally, likes will not be the only factor to help determine where businesses end up in Facebook's Graph Search results. Expect other interaction types, such as check-ins to be influential, as well. I can definitely see how the number and frequency of check-ins may help brands appear high on search results.

So, what are brands and page managers to do? Well, if it isn't yet obvious, businesses will need to focus on creating engagement with and between their fans. This can be done through a combination of publishing great content as well as offering incentives for those fans that take specific actions. One example is to offer discounts on in-store purchases when a customer checks in through Facebook.

Aside from encouraging engagement with fans, I suggest that brands also continue to invest in their profile and make sure it is complete and updated. Page managers should verify that the name, category, vanity URL and information within their Page's ‘About' section is correct.

Is Graph Search a Google Killer?

In closing I will say this... while there have been many theories floating around regarding the implications of Graph Search, I for one don't believe it to be a ‘Google Killer', at least not right out of the gate. Graph Search will undoubtedly affect location-based platforms, as previously mentioned, but in my opinion Facebook is quite far from contending with Google in terms of complex web searching.

With that said, I do believe that Graph Search could indirectly create a few issues for Google in terms of Bing and market share. Consider this... if Facebook can't find results for a member's query, it directs users to Bing for web-based results (as it did previously). The difference is, however, that Graph Search is much more robust than Facebook's previous search offering, and if members start using this feature on a regular basis, those users could end up on Bing more often than not, at which point it is up to Bing to keep them coming back. While it is far too soon to call this new search functionality a Google killer, it does have the potential to improve Bing's market share. And that, we know, could be deadly in its own right.