Jan 16

The Future of Search is Powered by Recommendations: Facebook’s Graph Search


In response to “come see what we’re building,” Facebook announced yesterday a truly integrated approach to search and social.  By using your unique profile of friends, connections, photos, check-ins and preferences, Facebook will attempt to give you the most relevant answer to questions like “what music do I like that my friends like?” and “which of my friends has traveled to Mexico?” or “show me all pictures of New York before 2001.”

In addition to social searches, Facebook will continue their ongoing relationship with Bing to offer web search as an added layer in the results.  Facebook has been collecting many different pieces of information about you and your friends and now there’s an easy way to sift through it and answer your questions looking through the unique lens of your peers.


Social Search vs. Web Search

Now that the next iteration of search is here, how does it differ from Google or other search engines?  When you perform a search on Google, that search is based on the keywords you enter and then utilizing their algorithm, ranks based off indicators across the web (links, content, authority and social signals).  Alternatively, Facebook’s Graph Search places the “authority” on the distance or relationship you have to your friends and their interests.  It still remains to be seen, but this may end up being more powerful than Google rankings.

Which would you as a consumer prefer?  Going to Google and searching for a plumber?  Or going to Facebook and searching for a plumber that your friend has already used?  Would you rather Google Tony’s Pizza or go to Facebook and search for Tony’s Pizza and become aware that your friend had a bad experience there?  Within this next generation of search, Facebook may just have found the one major weakness in Google’s algorithm:   the lack of implicit or explicit endorsements and recommendations.  By tapping into your friends experiences, recommendations, and interests Facebook provides a gateway into similar (and over time, possibly the same) information as Google, but now they are able to append a layer of social experience, relationship and recommendation that was unavailable before.


What does this mean for your business? 

It further emphasizes the need for your brand to be actively engaged, connected and creatively present on Facebook.  Without that linkage between friends and brands, when someone searches for “show me my friends who have purchased a car recently” or “show me my friends who like to cook Italian food”, your brand may not appear in that set.  So it’s even more important now to make sure that your brand is talked about, shared and recommended across the platform.

Facebook is encouraging the use of “sponsored results” which will continue to insert business results in search as it has in the past.  For now, Facebook will be focused on building out Graph Search and then will concentrate on advertising opportunities later.


What about privacy?

As Graph Search rolls out in Beta and becomes more widely available, we will see the impact on social search vs. web search.  Privacy of data will still be a major concern, however, Facebook seems very cognizant of this fact and is quick to point out that privacy settings are in place and can be modified at any time.  We encourage you to sign up and try Graph Search Beta, the future of search awaits:  will you Google it or Facebook it?


- Mara Schneider is a Digital Media Manager at Zócalo Group. Follow Mara on Twitter at @MaraKSchneider.