Facebook’s Apple-esque ‘secret announcement’ (without the internet leaks) provided us with an insight into the future of online social search. Just to clear this up, I’m not including Google. They are a search company, not a social company. Graph search is an overdue improvement of their current search function. We’re seeing Facebook dip their toe even further into the fruitful ocean of global friendship connectivity. With this project succeeding, Facebook can confidently aim to monopolise online socialising in the countries it currently ‘fails’ in like Russia and China.
If you’re in the US you’ve probably already had the pleasure of the testing out Facebook’s new, and confusingly titled toy: Graph Search. I can already hear “Where’s the graph?” and Facebook probably can to, as we’ve already seen tech reporting giant ‘Mashable’ post an article suggesting what Facebook should call the tool. Personally, I’d just go for ‘search’. Never make a user think, remember?
It’s not Google Search, you say? Forget it. This isn’t Facebook’s attempt at beating Google at his own game. However, they could be laying the groundwork. As we already know, Facebook are partnered with Bing. Therefore, with both translations on Facebook’s timeline and social integration on Bing’s search - Microsoft’s 'pretty' but poor attempt at going toe to toe with Google – the only reason why this service isn’t a competitor to Google is simple: scale. Facebook’s employee count of 3,539 is dwarfed by Google’s 53,546. Yes, perhaps the Facebook employees are ‘better’ at their job than their Google brothers, but let’s be realistic here – Google is the largest and most experienced search company in the world. Furthermore, unless Facebook finally decide to launch that OS we’ve all been waiting for, there isn’t actually a need for a fully blown web-index platform.
This is where I believe the original USP of Facebook is reborn. We’ve all seen The Social Network and discovered that the social conjugation of ones sexual desires is how Facebook first gained mass signups; without Facebook, you wouldn't be able to stalk that girl you like the look of when you arrive home drunk on a Friday night. When matching ‘social stalkery’ with the garnering of big data, Facebook’s path naturally leads to the notion that they are potentially harbouring the mother of all social diamonds. It’s a ready-made online dating platform. Reports suggest that Match.com, the largest subscription-based online dating channel in the US, claims over 93 million visits per month. Facebook dwarfs this figure, claiming over 1 billion users, meaning that a flick of the switch turns Facebook into the most powerful match-making system on the planet. Of course, we’re not all there to hook up, but discerning how this works is what Facebook have to determine.
Internet dating is how people seem to be inadvertently promoting the new search tool, and I see is as potentially the primary focus for the casual user. You can see who is single, narrow it to who likes your favourite band and is within in a 10 mile radius without having to tell your mum that you've resulted in a signing up to a dating website; Facebook is harmless, isn't it.
Well, harmless until you're being bombarded by messages from your local Chicken Cottage telling you that they are having a two for one deal on family buckets this week. From a marketing perspective, we're witnessing the birth of an incredibly efficient and powerful tool, in theory. Why only ‘in theory’? Just take a look at your friend’s profiles and you will realise that people do not take their Facebook ‘about me’ section and what they ‘like’ seriously. If you didn’t know already, it’s actually incredibly cool to announce your marriage to your best friend. On that note, marketers must tread carefully at who they are targeting as we could easily see those classic social media ‘fails’ bleed from Twitter to Facebook. What Graph Search does reveal is how lax a large percentage of Facebook users are with regards to their privacy settings. Couple this with the fact that no one cares about what they like surprisingly provides us with a Facebook Graph Search game whereby we can match up contradictory criteria to huge comic effect. In fact, a gentleman in London was quick off the mark to establish a Tumblr blog demonstrating this very phenomena.
Facebook Graph Search has large marketing potential and could possibly create a new wing of the Facebook mansion, but as with any new development there are flaws and privacy concerns for all. If I were you, I’d tighten up your privacy settings and be prepared for a freakishly accurate representation of ‘suggestions’, catering to your material wants and desires. Marketers, get in there quick whilst you can still take advantage of these loosely protected personal accounts.