Graph Search is a new search feature Facebook has released that combines elements of Google search, Siri and Yelp glued together by your Facebook friend list. With Graph Search you'll be able to search your personal social graph to find things like which Thai restaurant most of your Facebook friends have checked in at when you want to find a great place to eat.
This is a big step forward for Facebook in its quest to become a more profitable advertising platform than Google. This, of course, means another shift in the game for both Facebook users and Facebook advertisers. So what do you need to know?
1. As a Facebook user, the most important thing to remember about Facebook is that you are the product even more than you are one of their users. This is true of every website or app you use for free. The goal of profitability ensures that any company giving you their service for free (without a model to scale you into a paying customer at some point, and serving up ads as you use the service) needs you as a number to add to their user base in order to drive up advertising revenue.
So from that perspective, Facebook is enticing you to become a better product for them to offer to their advertisers. If you take the bait that Graph Search offers, you'll start to check in on Facebook to places you visit more often. You'll Like a lot more bands, books, sports teams, companies, events, etc. You'll add a lot of keywords to your Facebook interests like hiking, surfing, yoga, rock climbing, horse back riding, travel, rodeos, beauty pageants, bad reality TV shows, Twinkies, sky diving, and long walks on the beach (we all love those, right?).
The bottom line is that you'll want your friends to know more about you to be found in the Graph Searches they initiate. This also means you'll spend more time on Facebook and you'll make it easier for Facebook to deliver hyper-targeted advertising to you.
2. As a business the most important thing to remember is that Facebook just raised the bar on what you need to do through your marketing efforts to keep up with a world integrated with social media. Local and hyper-local marketing just got much better.
If someone uses Graph Search to see, "massage therapists my friends like in Chicago," they'll see a unique list of massage therapists in Chicago based on who their friends recommended, liked or the businesses with massage therapists that their friends check in to. If your company or brand isn't actively incentivizing customers to check in, like or recommend your company, then your competition has better chance of showing up in those searches.
In this respect, Graph Search is great for B2C businesses that are actively driving social engagement with their customers. It's also going to make being found online worse for the companies that are not already doing a good job integrating their traditional marketing efforts with online efforts.
3. Facebook just became even more important in our lives. Think about when you first checked out text messaging; it was interesting, but not a big deal in how you lived your life. Doing online searches had a similar trajectory. Graph Search has the potential to start out as new and interesting, then become helpful, and in a few months or years become essential in how you find new places to visit, businesses to buy from, and connect with friends on deeper levels about hyper-specific interests you share. The phrase 'game changer' is overrated, but Graph Search may prove to at least be rearranging the game board.
You can join the waiting list to try Facebook Graph Search if you would like to be one of the first Facebook users to experience how it works.