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.
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).
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?