Graph Search Is for Advertisers
Published: January 24, 2013
Author: Mark John Hiemstra
Bad news, Facebook users: I don’t think Graph Search is really for you. If anything, Graph Search is an attempt by Facebook to get more honest information about you, who you are, and what you’re interested in.
Anytime Facebook creates a facility of this type, its secondary purpose appears to be enhancing the user experience. These changes, more and more, appear to be attempts to find new sources of revenue by being able to more actively promote highly targeted ads and enhance the methods by which they deliver those ads.
While many would disagree with me, citing how often young Mr. Zuckerberg has told us about how passionate he is about user experience and would really rather not have any advertising of any kind at all on his website, it’s clear to me that either it’s not quite true, or he answers to his investors first, and his users second. I’m not saying this disparagingly, merely pointing out the obvious.
How does this come into play with Graph Search? They are getting to know you better by allowing you to be more honest with them about what your interests are. And there’s good reason for that. Let’s call it The Irony Factor.
Facebook has no idea if you liking the Backstreet Boys was intended to be ironic and was meant to amuse your friends, or if you left your laptop open while logged into Facebook and your daughter decided to Like The Sound of Music for you (this actually happened to me – joke’s on her, I LOVE that movie).
Moreover, that very same trickster daughter has previously listed her current residence as somewhere in Japan, and one of my designer friends has opted to list his current home as Sangin, Afghanistan. (He is decidedly not in Afghanistan.)
It’s unlikely that, when using Google, he searches for “best sushi Sangin.” It’s more likely that he might use that same query in his own city (one might suppose). And that is where Google has had the advantage over Facebook when it comes to targeting ads. You are honest with Google because you actually want to get some kind of result that means something to you personally so that you can perform an action based on that query, or get information that you want.
Repeat: you’re being honest with Google because you have to be in order to get the information you want, and you can be a smart-ass with Facebook because it’s fun to be. Thus, Google is able to target ads more efficiently.
Now, will my tech-savvy designer friend who does not actually live in Afghanistan ever use Facebook to perform some kind of search for information that he won’t be using to mess with his friends? Unlikely.
In fact, where Graph Search seems as though it may excel is in gathering information on people to either blackmail them, or to use as a really good stalking tool, at this point.
For Graph Search to really be successful, it will depend on users’ willingness to share that information about themselves that will make Graph Search worth using. If you have a set of, let’s say, 100 Facebook friends who have all locked up their Privacy Settings to the extent where you really can’t get any information about what they’re into, then the search results will be weak, and uninteresting.
The fact is that Graph Search is not intended to work the same way that a Google Search does, and it represents that next evolution of Search that we’re seeing more and more with tools like Siri. It’s intended to provide a user with an actual answer instead of a link to an answer. The answer relies on the data at hand, and as anyone who has asked a resident of Taos, New Mexico, where to get the best egg rolls in Toronto, Ontario, will know, if the data doesn’t exist, the answer is going to suck.
Searches performed on Facebook are likely, at least in the beginning, to concentrate on what other peoples’ interests are as opposed to one’s own, but as it develops and evolves, it could very well be a great source of information for individuals looking for a wide variety of information. And, with that knowledge, Facebook will allow for a whole new level of ad targeting.
Conspiracy theory? Maybe. Great strategy on Facebook’s behalf if proven true? Definitely. The way we search is changing, as is the information we get in return. But the information that a search engine gets from one performing a search will always be more solid than anything anyone will ever say about themselves in a social media profile.
– Mark John Hiemstra