What Graph Search is and why it matters to you and Facebook?

Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook Graph Search launchIt’s been nearly three months since Facebook announced a new beta program on the platform called “Graph Search,” which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has elevated as a “pillar” alongside Timeline and News Feed.  Over the next few months, Graph Search will ramp up its rollout until eventually every user on Facebook will have access.

Here are some initial observations about this product, and what it may mean to the fortunes of the world’s largest social network, let alone and the marketers who plan to use it to enhance their brands. 

What Is Graph Search?

Facebook’s Graph Search is a new “search” function that is different than Google. The big difference is that Facebook is focusing on using “Friends” and their “data” to refine their search. A good way to think about Facebook search is that it allows you to ask your “Friends” a question. For example, what kind of cars do my friends own? OR What hotel should I stay at in Las Vegas? This has a certain feel that is similar to Siri in terms of approach, however, using Facebook friends’ data.

This is an early search play for Facebook. It is still in Beta, but anticipated to roll out worldwide. Facebook ihas purposely chosen a slow rollout as it addresses the privacy concerns of its users. Hence, for marketers, there is still no first-mover advantage.

This will all end up working differently than search, as we know it. It will bring together friends, content and data – this is different.

A Future With Graph Search

First, this new platform feature will expand the engagement and behavioral lock-in among Facebook users.

It will also connect, surface and create more meaning for the historical Facebook Social Graph database. Today, the value of your Likes and behaviors on Facebook lives in the now, though Graph Search would bring relevance to things you’ve done in the past, such as Like a restaurant, or attend a concert, or purchase a certain automobile.

It will make Facebook more important for geographically based businesses, by enabling Facebook relevance to permeate the point of decision and purchase. Think of the local retailers or services businesses for which you normally ask friends for advice. Or once at the local business, think of the brands and products for which you seek recommendations.

It will create even richer consumer profile data. As Google has proven, search is among the most powerful databases of intentions. It would be quite a feat for Facebook Graph Search to near the success of Google. Nonetheless, a successful search product will enrich Facebook’s already robust database of consumer profiles — adding intention to the existing mix of demographics and interests.

With Launch Of Graph Search, What Should Marketers Do?

We’ve always believed in the power and scale of social for brand marketing, and Facebook’s ongoing product innovation is the latest evidence that social is in the early stages of becoming an important marketing channel and marketing data platform.

Be sensitive to your early social adopters in your brand’s social graph. Are they adopting this feature? If so, how? That insight will guide your strategy and investment in this third pillar of search.

Establish fluency in search marketing. Social performance demands that marketers break down functional silos, as paid, earned and owned media have become inextricably linked. This latest development could mean that search and social marketing silos must come down as well.

What Does Graph Search Mean to Facebook’s Bottom Line?

As for Facebook’s “bottom line,” Graph Search, if it takes off, would create more functionality and stickiness to intensify loyalty and engagement — important attributes for any Web business, especially a publisher with an ad-supported business model. Successful, mass adoption of Graph Search also would pave the way for more direct advertising product extensions, such as ads triggered by search queries and other search-related attributes.

Max Kalehoff is vice president, product marketing at social media firm Syncapse.