For quite some time now, Facebook has generated buzz around building out a search engine feature within their platform, leaving people wondering how the social networking giant will successfully incorporate search and social. Speculations can be put to rest now because Facebook has officially revealed their new search engine feature: Graph Search. What is Graph Search, you ask? Here’s a breakdown of the announcement’s major points, whether you’re a user or an advertiser.

What You Need to Know

Graph Search and web search are two different things. Unlike web search, Graph Search is designed to return your search results immediately based on a combination of phrases you type in the search bar, for example: “my friends in San Francisco who like the San Francisco 49ers.” Graph Search will show you who among your friends like the 49ers. You can also refine your search with filters, such as gender, relationship, employer, current city, hometown, school, and more.

Graph Search isn’t limited to searching people you’re connected to. With this new feature, you’re able to expand your search further than your connections on Facebook (don’t worry, we’ll discuss privacy concerns in a bit). Want to plan a group trip to the snow? Want to make some new friends? Search for “friends of friends who have been to Lake Tahoe.” Are you a recruiter? Find friends who know people at a certain company (picture credit to Danny Sullivan):

people search open graph

Credit: Danny Sullivan

You can also find movies, books, or TV shows, your friends like. You can even search for people who have the same general interests as you: “people who like things I like.”

Graph Search doesn’t constrain you to searches based on people and interests. Use Graph Search to search for photos, using the same search query structure: “photos of the Trevi Fountain,” “photos of my family taken in Italy,” “photos I like,” or “photos of my wife” (as Zuckerburg demonstrated at the press event). Being able to search through photos in this way is, as Zuckerburg said, “a search you can’t do anywhere else.”

What about places? Graph Search has you covered. At the press event Danny Sullivan tweeted that Lars Rasmussen explained how used he used Graph Search to find a dentist. Rasmussen searched for “dentists liked by my friends,” and search results returned a recommendation for Mark Zuckerburg’s dad as his new dentist. Again, from Sullivan:

business search open graph

Credit: Danny Sullivan

Graph Search works just as well for places as it does with people, interests, and photos. Search for restaurants by city, places your friends or family have visited, or even something as specific as restaurants ran by graduates from a prestigious culinary academy, as demonstrated during the event. Looking for somewhere new to eat? Check out what your friends like by searching for restaurants liked by your friends.

The search possibilities are endless. Graph Search will bring you results that no web search can bring you.

What This Means for Advertisers

Though Zuckerburg did not mention any new opportunities for ads and sponsored placement within Graph Search, he did mention in the Q and A that it “could potentially be a business over time.” In the meantime, I see amazing opportunities for advertisers after learning about Graph Search.

Facebook’s new search function returns results based users’ interests and their connections. Being able to search based on metrics such as these can potentially generate huge value for businesses. They can run promotional ads for those who like and check in to their location. Imagine the outcome of running campaigns focused on generating likes and check-ins to your business. The possibility of your place showing up on Graph Search results will increase exponentially.

check in Facebook

As previously mentioned, Zuckerburg said ad and sponsored placements “could potentially be a business over time.” If you think in terms of local search with Graph Search, imagine how powerful local ads can be. Graph Search could be a launching pad for things like targeted search-based ads and local ads. It can even be a research tool, akin to Twitter search, where you can discover what people are liking, which places they’re interested in, etc. There is also Bing integration in Facebook search, in case Facebook can’t return results people are looking for, where advertisers can utilize Bing for their campaigns.

Privacy Concerns

With most social networks, especially Facebook, there are privacy concerns. Users need not worry about their privacy – Graph Search only displays the information you allow others to see, based on your privacy settings. You will be able to hide certain photos, for example, from being seen if you feel they are too embarrassing.  Zuckerberg shared that Facebook will promote its new privacy tools better and will release a notice visible at the top of your News Feed page. As always, the true test of privacy settings will have to wait until the feature’s release.

It’s too soon to tell just how successful Graph Search will be, but as CNN reported, Yelp stock has fallen 8% after Facebook unveiled their new search engine feature. Could this be a sign of good things to come for the social network leader? Only time will tell.

Graph Search is not yet available to the public. However, those who wish to try Graph Search Beta can join the waiting list.

– Audrey Cueto

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Audrey Cueto
Audrey Cueto is a marketing specialist at SearchForce, a leading provider of online search and social media technology. She writes about the fundamentals of Facebook PPC.