Is Facebook on a mission to improve user experience, or on a quest to validate every privacy concern your kid’s school counselor warned you about? On Jan. 16th, 2013, Mark Zuckerberg introduced the Facebook Social Graph Search, and to many appears to have taken an early lead in driving a dangerous trend.
”Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”
That may sounds like a rash generalization (I don’t normally jump straight to the Ayn Rand quotes when I’m researching things), but Zuckerberg’s take may actually validate this when he talks about what he believes people care about:
“A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”
Facebook’s “Social Graph Search” will allow users to search the Facebook user database for individuals, brands and content based on data points such as:
At this point, the Facebook Social Graph Search won’t search status updates, but it’s no doubt in the long term plan, if you take Mark’s word on it:
“Our goal is not to build a platform; it’s to be across all of them.”
In addition to this change, which is aimed at encouraging users to stay longer on the Facebook website, integration with Bing appears to have deepened, judging by their beta and Bing recently adding 5x more social data into their search sidebar. When results are not found within your network or shared publicly, the ‘fallback’ is for Facebook to display relevant results through their search partner, Bing. Inevitably, some users will begin searching for general information through the Facebook search bar as they become conditioned to search within the platform, which I’m willing to be Zuckerberg wouldn’t be upset about.
With any new Facebook change there’s a period of necessary trial and error, but if the beta test proves to be a working platform, Zuckerberg may have finally found a way to liven up the network’s current (and pretty useless) search bar. By integrating a more natural search, Facebook can entice more people to spend more time on the site, which already dominates a lot of Internet time as it is, thereby encouraging investors and the stock market gnomes that Facebook isn’t a waste of time after all.
Whether this search enhances the status of social media civilization or demolishes it is up to be seen, as Facebook has made very clear that privacy issues were taken into consideration from the very beginning.
Right off the bat, Facebook profile, page and picture optimization, as well as optimization of websites for Bing spiders just became a top priority. This implies a growing need for leveraging metrics available from Microsoft and Facebook revolving rankings, profile ‘completeness’, network size, and respective rankings in results. It also means a need to go back in a start labeling and taggin all photos and video content with locations, company, and people names in order for them to show up in the new search.
For example, if someone uses the new Graph Search to find “Friends who went to the ISM Holiday Mixer” it won’t do any good unless all of those videos and pictures are tagged with that particular event, the ISM brand and the people in those photos are tagged correctly. It’s adds a few more steps into the mix when it comes to (and I hesitate to use this term, but what the heck) Facebook SEO, but those steps are now glaringly necessary.
Aside from just making Facebook changes, if you’re not using Bing’s Webmaster tool set yet, you probably want to set that up immediately considering all Facebook default searches will now run through Bing.
All in all, these changes speak to a greater message many of us have anticipated and preached for years: social media’s growing importance in search. While we don’t believe Facebook’s Graph Search is a complete ‘game changer’, we do believe that it will likely drive more search equity towards FB/Bing and we would be remiss if we didn’t step up and be well-prepared and positioned to take advantage of whatever shifts come over the next few years.
As marketers, it is our job to stay on top of updates and announcements like this and while concrete data and extrapolations can’t materialize until widespread release of Graph Search, it appears at this point Facebook may be extending it’s hand into a profitable and influential arena. Whether or not Facebook users or the general public feel privacy is going out of the window, this new land of search is here to stay.
What do you think of Facebook’s Graph Search? Do you think it’s a “game changer” or just another addition to the network people will ignore to watch cat videos?