It’s hard to know what to make of Facebook’s new Graph Search.
Last week, Facebook gave a preview of its new search feature that looks for answers by exploring your Facebook experience as well as what your friends have shared. While Google searches the entire web, Facebook Graph Search gives you results based solely on your Facebook social life. It’s personalizing search.
Graph Search works on the premise that we trust our friends more than we trust an organization. So if you’re planning a trip, you might search for “places my friends have visited this year.” Or if you want to find new music, you might search “bands my friends like.” Here are a couple short videos of how Facebook envisions it.
The search service isn’t public. It’s in beta testing, which means a lot of us haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. But plenty of reporters have gotten hands-on time and have written about the experience. Based on that, here are a few thoughts I have on how this could affect what we’re doing on Facebook.
Exposure to your church page could increase. If someone likes your church page, or is actively involved with you, that could potentially show up in search results. Searches like “Where do my friends go to church?” or “What did my friends in Chicago do this weekend?” could result in new people seeing your church page. That assumes members in your congregation like your page or checks-in when they come to church.
You’re depending on really specific searches. Those examples above are really specific kinds of questions. I can’t help but wonder if people are really going to do searches that specific.
It’s hard to know if people will use this feature. Beyond questioning how specific people will be in their searches, I’m also curious how much people will really use this once it’s public. It seems like most new features Facebook adds are rarely used by the average user. In my experience, very few people actually use the Page Feed feature recently added. On top of that, even if something new is forced on users, they typically throw a fit. Remember the transition to Timeline? Many of my friends of all ages ended up sounding like a grumpy old man yelling at kids who cut across his lawn.
People concerned about privacy are going to make a stink. While Facebook says your current privacy settings will not change with the addition of Graph Search, people are going to feel uncomfortable knowing their friends can search anything about them. And depending on user’s settings, their information could show up to complete strangers.
Results may not be as accurate as users think. In its review of Graph Search, CNN made a great point. The success of this kind of search tool is dependent on Facebook users being active in updating and liking lots of brand pages. Reporter Heather Kelly discovered that searches for something like getting a restaurant recommendation didn’t work very well because her friends don’t automatically like a restaurants page if they enjoyed a meal there.
Facebook will try to monetize this. Since becoming a public company, most of the decisions and changes Facebook has made come down to making money. I’m looking at your promoted posts. My guess is there will be ways to pay to promote a search result. Folks already gripe about Facebook advertising and I’m not sure they’ll be as drawn to the search feature if they realize it’s got ads.
We’ll have a much better feel for how Facebook users will use or accept Graph Search once it’s out of beta and more readily available. Until then, what do you think? Do you have any initial thoughts of Facebook Graph Search?