Testing Facebook Graph Search: First Thoughts

My Facebook account is now part of the beta group for Facebook Graph Search, and I’ve spent some time taking it for a spin.

It’s clear this will be a powerful feature, but as Nate Elliott has already blogged, it feels like something Facebook should have built some time ago. What I predict to be the most common searches, such as “which of my friends live in London” or “people my friends are friends with who work at Ford Motors,” are powerful, but basic, features that users have been requesting for a long time. The first rollout will also be missing obvious road map features, including the ability to search for links and status updates that you or your graph have posted. 

Facebook Graph Search: Photos of Bacon by my friends

The success of any individual Graph Search reflects what data (and activities) users directly provide Facebook, and today, many of the online activities that Graph Search encompasses take place on other social properties. Facebook often facilitates the social graphs of the other social properties with Facebook Connect, but Graph Search cannot “see” into that data. The average Facebook “like” is also less meaningful than Facebook's development team hopes, as others have also blogged

Therefore, the Graph Search is most successful with Facebook’s core use features, including queries about where you work, where you live, how you’re connected to other people, and photos. Besides the successful searches I mention above, I threw “photos of my friends with bacon” at it and got useful results. However, it falls very flat with queries about music or restaurants, which were two things featured in the announcement. It did not return quality results for “restaurants in San Francisco my friends like,” since my graph of that information is contained on Yelp and Foursquare (which both use Facebook Connect). Similarly, searching for music my friends like returns either music groups my friends are active in or nothing at all, while Spotify would know the right exact answer and again uses Facebook Connect. (See screenshots alongside this post for examples of each query).

 

For Marketers:

Facebook Graph Search: Restaurants in San Francisco my friends like

There was no component specifically for marketers in the first beta product; however, if implemented well, this is an opportunity for Facebook to offer more targeted ads to marketers oriented around purchase intent in the same manner that has served Google AdWords well for years. 

Many search queries, such as “photos of my friends with bacon” will not be relevant for marketers; however, there will be plenty of queries, ranging from travel (“my friends who live in London”) to job postings (“people my friends are friends with who work at Ford Motors”) with clear advertising potential. 

What searches are you most excited about, or are how are you planning to target ads against potential searches?

Comments

What do you think

Please let me know if there's anything you're particularly interested in, excited by, or think is over-hyped in the new Facebook Graph search.

Nice one really i loved it

Nice one really i loved it facebook graph search wonder work guys
Research and analysis

Tremendous consumer ad potential if implemented well

This is a good version 1 of a potentially powerful tool. That being said, I would like to know how Facebook would like to answer this:

A Facebook user may not like ads on a timeline while he or she is interacting with friends. Ads will only disrupt that experience.

A relevant Google ad will have higher probability of a click-through since the Google user is "searching" for a particular product or service, and the ads will be relevant to that.

One way Facebook can counter this is to change the rules of the game. The timeline's functionality, usability, and user expectation should be molded so that users expect targeted ads on their timeline.

The current implementation of "Friend X likes Brand Name and a *possibly related* post" hasn't been implemented well enough - some more thought needs to go into a more seamless implementation.

The killer implementation will include a world class graph search, and a seamless ad delivery that will not be looked upon as a disruptive experience by users.

Agreed

Google's made its money from having the most relevant ads at a time where they can tell purchase intent. Facebook, so far, has had very little success matching that relevancy. We'll see if Graph Search gets them further towards that goal.