Facebook’s new Graph Search: helpful, or creepy?

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This past Tuesday, Facebook unveiled its revamped internal search system that makes it easier for users to get answers drawn from the social network’s vast array of status updates, pictures, “Likes” and other content posted by the social network’s billion+ users, its 240 billion indexed photos and its one trillion connections.

What the 'Results Page' of Facebook's Graph Search looks like.

What the ‘Results Page’ of Facebook’s Graph Search looks like.


The new service called Graph Search was announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg as an alternative to Google-type Web searches tied to keywords.

Instead, of providing the searcher with a page of links where the user “might” find her answer (as Google and other search engines do), Graph Search is geared to provide specific answers to specific questions and phrases by presenting searchers with a list of user pages that answer the specific query.

Facebook’s self-stated goal with its search system was to make search more “personal” and “social.” The company envisions it as a way to find word-of-mouth recommendations (“Mexican restaurants in San Francisco’s Mission District that my friends like” or “Movies that are liked by film directors”) and connect with people with similar interests (“People who live in my hometown who like hiking” or “People who graduated from my high school the same year I did”). The list of profile pages you’re presented with is based on profile information (which every Facebook user has already filled out), plus key words used in status updates, uploaded photos and videos, plus pages that are “liked.”

Depending on your point of view, this new development could either be extremely helpful or uncomfortably creepy (funny how that word pops up more and more in regard to Facebook).

While Facebook says it has no plans for monetizing Graph Search, you gotta believe that’s not too far off. The company’s most valuable assets are its users, and more specifically, the profile information shared by its users. Facebook has dabbled in profiting from profile data by allowing advertisers to target according to profile, and by selling “sponsored stories” based on user behavior. But from the sound of things, Graph Search has the potential to make this seem like small potatoes.

As a marketer, you can potentially find some amazing uses for Graph Search.

It could give you a leg up in areas such as employee and executive recruitment. Graph Search will allow businesses to create hyper-specific queries within their existing Facebook networks, such as “employees of my company who are friends with employees of (Company X)” or “people who have five or more years of experience in software project management.” Yes, there are other social networks that are more focused on recruiting (LinkedIn, for one), none of them can boast the user base or profile data Facebook has.

Undoubtedly, marketers will also benefit from even finer-grained ad targeting that’s sure to come. Facebook’s future revenues will be deeply tied to providing access to its users’ profile data. By sharing information about who their friends are, what music they listen to, where they vacation, and what brands they “like,” each Facebook user creates a rich vault of profile data that is of great value to companies and advertisers.

Ah, but there’s a big “if” here. All this could work out to help Facebook revolutionize search if…its users willingly cooperate by keeping profiles accurate and up to date, and more importantly, if.. they stay active on the network. To my mind, it would be a mistake to take this for granted, especially given the pushback Facebook has received regarding its many “privacy policies” and the potential for stalker-like searches (“single women in Seattle who live on Capitol Hill, are friends with my friends and like Gold’s Gym”).

So what do you think: will Graph Search reinvigorate Facebook and make it more useful for users? Or will it creep users out to the point where they step away from the social network? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more information on Graph Search, check out this story first published on MediaPost.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.

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