By: Rory Kennett-Lister on 24-01-2013 in Facebook, Fun, Marketing News, Online Marketing, Search, Social Media

First there was the News Feed, then there was Timeline. Now, Mark Zuckerberg and his army of employees have developed the newest addition to the Facebook arsenal – Graph Search

This is another important step for Facebook, with the world’s favourite social network getting closer to utilising the swathes of information stored within its walls.

What is Graph Search?

Graph Search is essentially a search engine for all the shared content that is collected through Facebook’s Social Graph.

If you’re unused to Facebook’s particular lexicon, ‘Social Graph’ probably brings to mind a particularly chatty supply and demand chart striking up conversation at a party. (No? Just me?)

In actuality, the Social Graph is the part of Facebook that collects all the connections and interactions on the site. Whenever people comment on a post, like a brand, share a link or use an ap, Facebook collects this data and shares it to potentially interested users through the News Feed.

Graph Search makes more specific use of this information, allowing you to trawl easily through the data with simple search queries. As recent beta tests have shown, you can get scarily specific, narrowing down to seemingly whatever takes your fancy.

An Example

Let’s assume you’ve launched your dream website (An e-commerce site for organic Icelandic dairy drinks (The real Ice-Chocolate)). Now you’re in the market for some serious, premium-grade, 24 carat SEO services. You jump onto Google and smash in ‘SEO services,’ but you’re stumped by the endless results that pour out on page after page.

You think back to one of your Facebook friends who has been gloating all over your News Feed – ‘Fuzzypants,’ her alpaca underwear company, skyrocketed into the rankings recently. Then there’s that guy you went to school with who drives a Ferrari – he has a bunch of top sites.

Getting onto Graph Search, you type in ‘What SEO companies do my friends use?’ Because your ‘friends’ are so happy with their SEO services, they’ve ‘Liked’ their SEO provider’s Facebook Page or checked in at the offices when they go to meetings. As a result, your search lists the company these website trail blazers have used.

With this precious information you make contact with this stellar SEO company and watch your rankings rise.

The Other Side

Of course, Graph Search isn’t as narrow as the above example. You can ask ‘Which of my friends like eating butter?’ or ‘What Antarctic national parks have my friends visited?’ You can look even further – ‘Friends of friends who are single and like Batman,’ for instance.

These examples all toe the line suggested by Facebook –Graph Search is a way to check what those in your broad social circle are in to.

There’s another side to Graph Search that may become popular with those of a more business bent.

With your Iceland iced milk company (Ice Iced-Milk, Baby) now going gangbusters you’ve decided to expand. Queue searches: Sales consultants who like milk; Women who like cows; Men who like chocolate; Marketers under 30 who like Bjork.

The list is theoretically endless, and the ability to utilise users’ employment information could (maybe) put Facebook in competition with LinkedIn. Additionally, being able to home in on a cross-section of people interested in a particular thing will undoubtedly make Graph Search a hit with those involved in social media marketing.

The Dark Side

As with every Facebook update, there are criticisms of the move. Andis Kaulins, an law author and educator at Stanford, has suggested that Facebook could be in legal trouble if they use the tool to profit themselves, as Graph Search unjustly appropriates information originally published for one specific purpose.

Interestingly, Jesse Emery (from YourTrove) has questioned whether the Graph Search function will result in even more aggressive tactics from businesses trying to get users to ‘Like’ their pages.

Other commentators are (as usual) questioning the potential for privacy breaches.

Of course, Facebook’s been pretty good at shrugging off criticism up to this point, and given the search function enhances the ability to ‘Face-stalk,’ it’s probably going catch on like wildfire.

Just Beta It

The function is still in beta testing mode, but sooner or later Graph Search will become standard fare across Facebook’s pages. Before that day comes, make sure you check over everything you’ve ‘Liked’ on Facebook, lest you appear in some compromising search results.

Do your friends like Graph Search?