On Tuesday, Facebook finally made it’s big announcement, they will be moving into the search market with Graph Search. Aptly named, as Graph Search is using user’s social graphs and also incorporates Open Graph protocol to deliver results. What is a user’s social graph?
The social graph in the Internet context is a sociogram, a graph that depicts personal relations of internet users. It has been referred to as “the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related.” – Wikipedia
Facebook is looking to take your connections with other individuals, and what they have an affinity towards, to deliver highly targeted search results, or in a lot of cases recommendations from those within your social circles. Facebook’s usage of Open Graph protocol will augment how the results are delivered to the user, due to the fact the markup allows websites to become enhanced objects within the Social Graph. Publishers that are ahead of the game as far as Open Graph markup goes, should see some positive results as Graph Search begins to gain momentum with users.
The illustration above outlines the basic idea behind how everything fits together to deliver Facebook’s Graph Search results. Facebook already has access to all of the information about what you ‘Like,’ whether it be specific songs based on what you listen to on Spotify or Last.fm, to YouTube videos shared between friends and restaurants you check-in to or ‘Like.’ Graph Search looks to take this information and deliver more targeted search results when compared to traditional search. For example, say you’re visiting San Francisco for the first time and looking for restaurant recommendations. Rather than blasting an update to all of your friends, Graph Search allows you to search for restaurants people in San Francisco already show an affinity towards on Facebook. Refining the search results based on the location of individuals within your Social Graph allows you to be delivered, what Facebook feels, will be more relevant search results.
The big takeaway initially is that Facebook looks to be focusing on user experience before introducing a revenue model for the new product. However, don’t expect advertising to be too far away. Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia believes:
“Long term, we think this will be a big revenue opportunity. We believe users will engage strongly with the product, which should result in better monetization overall as users spend more time on the platform. The Bing partnership for Web search received less focus during the presentation. However, we think this could perhaps represent just as big an opportunity from an incremental revenue standpoint, depending on whether Facebook users adopt the Facebook/Bing integration for general Web searches as a replacement for their current preferred search engine of choice. In the long run, we would not be surprised if FB developed its own search engine to crawl the wider Web.”
Graph Search doesn’t look to be a Google killer (or immediate competitor) at this point, but focusing on user experience first and revenue second might help Facebook move in the right direction in 2013. Also, not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but the announcement also looks to be pretty close to what Anvil predicted in our 2013 Social Media Marketing Predictions.
Don’t forget to check out a sample of what Graph Search will look like for you personally and join the waiting list (scroll to the bottom of the page) to be one of the first to experience Graph Search as it rolls out to all Facebook users.