Some thoughts on Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

(Image via Facebook)

With Facebook expanding Graph Search to include comments, posts and check-ins, the company’s project to track all content on the site is beginning to take shape. Search has been a weak spot of Facebook – not to mention social in general – so the roll out of this feature is good news. Well, good news for certain groups anyway.

It’s obvious that brands will welcome this as it means tracking conversations and mentions will be a lot easier. Facebook has already been courting TV stations with its data and you knew that once it started doing that, it found a way to track the vast amounts of content created on it daily. Combine that with the emotion tags that more and more people are including in their posts and already, you have the kind of sentiment analysis data that’s invaluable to companies.

Users, on the other hand, mightn’t feel that this change has any benefit to them or even care about it in the first place since they don’t have access to it. This poses a few questions.

– How many users have access to Graph Search? Anyone who has US English selected as a language automatically has access to it, but for the rest of the world, it’s still being rolled out. Considering that a vast number of users don’t have the new layout yet (announced as far back as March) and that Facebook is relatively slow with releasing new features – due to its insistence that things are close to perfect before general release – the only ones who will be getting excited about this are marketers.

– Apart from looking for pages and your own posts, how many use Graph Search for discovery? Speaking from personal experience, my use is limited to finding a page or person. Searching for keywords rarely happens as I don’t associate Facebook as a hub for public conversation (yet), just a way to catch up on what my friends and family are doing.

This is more down to Facebook’s original purpose being a way to keeping up to date with friends and it’s still evolving from that simple goal into the cornerstone of the Web. Facebook knows that it could suffer a significant backlash if it makes sudden, jarring changes and has to keep everyone, from the average user to advertisers to shareholders, happy.

– How many regular users actually know how Graph Search works? Tying into the last point, the average person knows if they type keywords into a Google search bar, it will figure out the rest and provide them with the answers they’re looking for. Graph Search works on a different level, requiring you to think in search terms like “friends who live in Dublin”. How you search and how results are provided means that users are required to think differently and until Facebook properly shows users the benefits to such a system, the majority will only scratch the surface of what it has to offer.

Currently, the potential of Graph Search to be something truly amazing is just that, potential! It will be a little while longer before the entire userbase have it and much longer before they really get to grips with the feature. Facebook knows that people view it as placing advertisers first and users second so convincing them that Graph Search is the future isn’t just good for users, it’s good for Facebook and its attempt to place a stranglehold on all things digital.

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