facebook introduces graph search
Facebook has introduced the new graph search feature which is currently being rolled out to the US facebook users.
Essentially, graph search will make it easier to make sense of all the information (masses and masses of it) that you have access to through your friends on facebook. This is what facebook have to say about graph search - this is the important video - not the candy floss main video writ large at the top of the page:
Here's how it will work in its simplest form. You are friends with John. John has put photos on facebook of his childhood. He's also put information about where he works, the bands he likes and his favourite restaurants.
When you run a graph search, you can (for example) ask facebook to find pictures of your friends from before 1990 - John's photos will come up.
You can search for friends that work at ACME (since you might be thinking of applying for a job there) and John's information will come up.
You might be planning a romantic dinner - and run a graph search for romantic restaurants your friends like. John's recommendations will appear.
This new feature has obvious implications for users. I'd much rather go to a restaurant John has recommended - he's my friend and, actually, I trust his recommendations more than food critic in the local paper (who I suspect writes good reviews for free meal!). So, on the surface, these are good things.
The less obvious implications are for businesses. If I am a restaurant, then I really, really want John to like my restaurant. Because the more Johns like my restaurant, the more I am going to appear in graph search results.
And the more socially influential John is - the more attractive he is to me as a business. So I will court these "information kings" more than other facebook users - as much as anything because of the connections to others that they can offer.
Suddenly, the more friends I have, the more attractive I am to businesses, and the more they will compete for my precious "likes".
We are already seeing businesses struggling to spread their posts through either sheer volume or through higher spending on promoted posts.
I think there is a "glass ceiling" to the amount of posting a company can do without running the risk of alienating their current followers (or at least those followers who actively follow a business - so in the end it will come down to who can promote more. And the deeper the pockets the more promotion.
As yet, there is no suggestion that PPC advertising (pay per click - sponsored ads - like those at the top and side of Google's search results) will feature somehow in graph search, but in my opinion the temptation may just be too great for facebook - and there shareholders - to resist.
Will facebook get to the point where it is competing with Google. It will be interesting. Google started as a search engine and has introduced Google + - now your search results are starting to include social media features. Some of the search results include a tag which shows how many people in your circles are connected to the business featured. facebook starts at the other end. They've got all the people, who, through their likes have "recommended" businesses - now they are looking to tie this into your search results.
It will be fun to see if they meet in the middle....