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How Facebook Made Me Search In Strange New Ways
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wonder who I know that has gone skydiving, lived in France, eats Chinese food, while mixing a smoothie with their new Ninja NJ600 Blender?”
Apparently, this is exactly how we should be thinking. At least, the way Facebook sees it.
Not to undermine that this could likely become something very valuable to users and marketers alike, it just seems like Facebook keeps solving problems that none of us knew we ever had before.
You see, when search originally started with engines, it was this active form of discovery. Some life event or moment of curiosity caused the “search” action to be taken.
Facebook, and other social networks alike, were different, however. These mediums brought along a much more passive form of discovery. My discovery was not because something influenced my life. It was simply due to my connection with my network. Based on nothing more then “hanging out” on the network, I would passively discover content. I wrote about this idea previously here.
And now, we have a whole new way of searching through this passive discovery.
Is Facebook Graph Search A Google Replacement?
With this new Graph Search, I have read that Facebook is going to be “killing” Google and replacing certain aspects for users.
Perhaps this will happen one day, but not in its current form. Facebook will not kill Google in the immediate future because of a fundamental flaw in Graph Search; it doesn’t contain all the Webs’ information.
Is this to say that they can’t gather it? No. In fact, if any one company is positioned to do that, I would argue Facebook would be it.
Where They Miss The Boat
The way I would define what social search is supposed to be would be as follows:
“Social search is a means of uncovering information, to fill a knowledge gap taking into account crowd sourced information from your network, which contains information from a reputable source within your network, giving more of a credible touch to the content.”
I had the chance to test out Graph Search, and Facebook does not appear to do any of this (I owe a big thank you to Mark Ginsberg for trusting me not to post random thoughts on his behalf). You may argue that there is Bing integration? Yes, it is present, but the two seem very independent from each other. Graph Search doesn’t layer over search results in ways that Google+ does to Google.
There Is Some Value To Graph Search
Based on my testing, and as a marketer, I see a lot of future value in graph search. For example, quantifiably gathering data for persona building is an incredible idea. Not to mention the possibilities in link building outreach and Relationship Building.
But there are a few things I think Facebook seriously needs to consider improving.
Where Can Facebook Graph Search Improve?
1. General Searching
Currently, and I hope this changes soon, Facebook is indexing the content on “the graph.” This means other pages and interests within Facebook. But that isn’t necessarily what I was looking for.
What Facebook has created appears to be some strange version of Boolean logic that allows a way to filter down what people connect themselves to on the Graph. I question how valuable something like this ever could be without ever “scraping” and “indexing” status updates and captions. I, for one, do not like or connect to every page I associate with offline.
Take for example a search on the show “Homeland.” Using Mark’s access again, I could not find myself at all because I didn’t actually “like” the page.
It seems as though this functionality is rolling out soon, but it’s not here yet.
Here is the strange part. When I search on Bing, that post that I wrote about does show up.
Seems like there is a major disconnect between the two.
2. Image Search
I was excited to be able to search for “fun” images. But this, again, was a big let down so far because of the tagging component.
Turns out, my images are un-searchable for this exact reason. They will not show up in searches that contain “Chicago” since I don’t geo tag them. They will also not show up in searches having to do with “ninja” since Facebook isn’t indexing the actual caption associate with the image, which seems strange to me since that is the main functionality for Instagram, and they own it.
3. Facebook Auto Complete
Facebook has this form of auto complete that really irks me. In nearly every instance I tried, Facebook did not let me actually do the search I wanted. It miraculously changed it to what they could provide and what they felt was most appropriate.
In the above example, I wanted to search images that have cookies in them, but Facebook somehow interpreted that to mean “I want to see a list of friends who liked the page for Chocolate Chip Cookies, and are also in my images”, which seems like a rather strange request, anyway, and for sure not what I was looking for. Danny also expressed his frustration on this here.
4. Facebook Is Just Plain Wrong At Times
I also discovered that Facebook appears to be interpreting things incorrectly.
I did a search for “Friends of Aaron Friedman who are Violinists” because I know of one in particular who actually is and builds them (cool, I know). What I got were the below two results. One is my friend Ari Nahmani.
I asked Ari if he was in fact a violinist… he isn’t.
Turns out, his uncle is a musician and he “liked” the fan page. Somehow Facebook interpreted that as him being a violinist rather than a marketer. And no, my friend who builds them did not come up in a search.
My Advice To Facebook & Everyone
If this is truly going to become a search engine replacement, then it is going to have to function as an actual search engine. Consider expanding the search functionality to include status updates, image captions and 3rd party applications. The information that you can glean from a friend on vacation and what they wrote about in their updates is invaluable.
I can’t stress enough the importance of actually getting yourself and your clients on the Graph. If you want to start appearing in these searches and capturing this valuable equity, then connecting to pages you want your brand associated with is more important than ever. Find what matches your brand and make those connections.
As this expands and becomes more robust, I imagine some of these issues may correct themselves, as I mentioned above. But, why not stay ahead of the curve and make those connections on the Graph for yourself now?
After all, aren’t connections what social media is all about?
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.