Welcome to the next evolution of social searching: semantic search. Specifically, Facebook’s recently unveiled Graph Search. If you’re a marketer wondering what the potential is for your brand, a good starting point is Facebook’s own introductory video:
For those too time-pressed to watch it, here’s an easily digestible breakdown of what Facebook Graph Search is, and just how it can be applied to a social media marketing strategy.
What is Graph Search?
Facebook’s updated search function is essentially a clean, improved interface that offers a more meaningful search of the wealth of data that Facebook’s 1 billion users enter into the network.
Currently in a limited beta version, Graph Search is clearly still in its infancy with plenty of scope for fine tuning. The potential lies in the concept: serving up personalised search results in real time based on users’ personally proffered information.
How is Graph Search different?
Let’s start by looking at Facebook’s classic search function. With Spring in the air, I’ve run a search for ‘flowers’. As you can see, the search has served up a listing of relevant Apps, Pages and People.
While this is helpful if I’m looking for a Page, person/profile, place or so on with ‘flowers’ in the title, it doesn’t offer anything else that may be associated with flowers. In many ways, old Facebook search harks back to the early days of simple search in the late 1990s.
Run a similar search on Graph Search however, and the results are far more revealing. Having entered the search term, we are offered a comprehensive list of suggestions. We immediately learn who among our friends likes flowers, who has commented on them and we see photos that are captioned with the word ‘flowers’. The Interest pages offer a useful Wikipedia introduction to the search term, reveal posts by friends about ‘flowers’ and related Pages, while the layout has been well considered to highlight social context. Graph Search also enables richer search terms, for instance we could look up something along the lines of “people who like flowers in Edinburgh, Scotland”.
Ways to harness Graph Search
Effective social marketing is, as we know, much to do with effective listening, and any tools that help us understand how people are conversing online are a bonus.
Graph Search is making inroads into unearthing hot topics happening on Facebook, but needs further refinement. For instance, a search for ‘Apple’ brings up an Interest, a Sponsored app, a Company Page (restaurant chain Applebee’s), the Apple Store and finally, Apple Inc.
Click on Apple Inc and a more useful set of semantic results appears, such as ‘People who work at Apple Inc’ – but this could be improved with a set of related status updates and comments that people have made relating to ‘Apple’
FPR’s Final Thought
Graph Search marks an important, albeit tentative, first step into truly semantic search which should ultimately help brands to harness social data to generate leads and sales. Fans and Page Likes are clearly regarded as important social capital by Graph Search – and the priority for brands now is to build an active and engaged following on Facebook while it is still relatively easy and inexpensive to do so.