Up Close With Facebook Graph Search

We’ve covered the launch of Facebook Graph Search, explored how it differs from Google search but now it’s time for the hands-on. Come along for a tour of how it works.

Sign-Up & Wait 

To get started, you have to sign-up, where you’ll be added to a waiting list. There’s no particular ETA of when you’ll actually have it enabled:

Expect it to likely take days and possibly weeks, especially if you’re late to signing-up. But when it happens, you’ll see a notice like this:

The New Search “Box” That’s Not A Box

Once you’ve turned on Graph Search, you’ll see the old-style search box go away to be replaced with the new bolder look:

The tricky thing is that it’s not a new box that is taking over, not at first glance. Instead, you have to start typing in the “Search for people, places and things” area to get a search box to appear:

It’s a clever idea, because it helps avoid confusion with people trying to search within that other important box on Facebook, the status update box.

The search box, as you can see above, also suggests some initial search topics, such as:

  • Restaurants nearby
  • Music my friends like
  • Photos I have liked

Looking For Photos

The “Photos I have liked” search is pretty cool:

It’s hard to believe you couldn’t do this on Facebook before. It also made me smile, because I have a lot of friends with kids who share pictures of them doing cute and adorable things. So my “Photos I have liked” stream was full of happy pictures.

It becomes even more compelling how this will allow you to do a better job of going through your content on Facebook itself, as you drill into more suggestions, such as the “Photos I’ve Liked & Commented on” search:

That’s an awesome type of search I’d have never thought to do. Biddy Biddy.

But how about exploring beyond your own content. Sure. Anyone for photos taken in a particular place? Say Newport Beach? And say, in a particular time, like 2012? Facebook’s got you covered:

Looking For People

Enough with pictures and their thousands of words. Let’s look for people, which is currently the main search activity people do on Facebook. They’re typically trying to find people they know. But now, they can discover new people, say “People Nearby” their current location:

That reminds me. I really need to catch up with Dave McClure.

How about people who work for Google and live in Sydney? Yeah, Facebook can and did do that for me. I won’t show those results, because it’s hard for me to tell if I’m seeing some of the people because of information that’s only visible to me.

But these kinds of searches along with others are possible, such as people I know who went to my college and live in Washington DC or people who went to my college in 1988:

Don’t trust that guy. Nah, trust him. Good taste in films.

Then there’s the type of search that makes me think LinkedIn might get a little nervous. Say you work at Facebook and would like to snag some Googlers? What better way than to figure out who works at Facebook but previously worked at Google. Yeah, Facebook Graph Search can do that:

That Elliot Schrage guy, he’s probably got some connections. Keep in mind you can do this for any number of companies, too. It’s not just for Silicon Valley media giants.

Searching For Places

Now let’s make Yelp a bit nervous. Where to eat? How about asking about restaurants in a particular city that are liked by my friends:

Calafia’s great, by the way, whether you want a quick bite or whether you’re the CEOs of Google and Apple looking to negotiate an impasse. No, really, that happened.

Of course, I mentioned in my other story, How The New Facebook Search Is Different & Unique From Google Search, that there can be an issue if your friends aren’t really connecting in a way that’s helpful. Here’s an example of that:

Trust me, Newport Dunes isn’t a hot restaurant in Newport Beach. The problem here is that I don’t have a lot of friends who actually check-in on Facebook to restaurants in the city. That makes this search result fairly weak for me.

Searching For Things & Facebookpedia

Lastly, Facebook lets you look for things. Things? I suppose anything that doesn’t fit into the people, places and photos category. Here’s an example, “things” that people who are my friends and who also like Barack Obama like:

NPR. Who would have figured!

These kinds of searches lead quickly into what I consider to be Facebookpedia-mode, where you start just browsing and searching out of curiosity.

Jodie Foster and Lance Armstrong both had big news this week. If you wanted to have some music for a friend who likes them both, what would that be? Crazy, but Facebook gives you an answer:

More practically, know two people and want to know what music, movies or other things they have in common? Enter their names, and Facebook can come back with matches.

The Bing Integration

Finally, Bing has long been Facebook’s web search partner. With the new implementation, it feels a little more visible for searches where Facebook itself doesn’t have an answer (and Bing has a short post with more about this):

But then again, when I asked Facebook “who won the golden globes,” it kept trying to send me into various types of Facebook Graph Search matches, none of which were what I wanted. I had to really struggle to get the web search option for Bing to appear.

No doubt, this will improve, as will Facebook Graph Search overall.

It remains very early days, but I already find it fascinating the types of searches this is allowing me to do, searches I hadn’t contemplated before. It reminds me of how in the past, we wouldn’t have thought of doing things like YouTube searches or Twitter searches, since we didn’t have those resources. Now, we search at these places for unique needs. Facebook is a great repository of data, and it finally has a search catching up to all it knows.

To come in the near future, how does Facebook’s new search really do against similar searches at places like Google and Yelp?. Expect some head-to-head action.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Facebook: Facebook Search | Features: Analysis | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/sj2go Sean Jordan

    What does it come up with when you search ‘Randi Zuckerberg’? ..can you Tweet it?

  • propools

    Again, I think this is clear evidence of the shrinking relevance of 2 – 3 word search terms and the importance of granular search. It is pretty slick though.

  • http://twitter.com/TurkoAgency Turko Digital Agency

    bing’s greatest (only) move so far

  • http://twitter.com/johnelincoln John E Lincoln

    Danny, great walk though. With opengraph tags on webpages and apps and the clean way which Facebook has structured their data they have an awesome opportunity to offer segmented search options. I’ve been watching this development, as i know most others in search have, for a long time. This is going to be a huge part of social media optimization in the future. Even in the next year. Anyways, thanks for the great editorial as always.

  • http://twitter.com/CXthecloud CX

    Thanks for the post, Danny! This definitely seems like yet another step in Facebook taking over the world.

  • robthespy

    The exact opposite- IMO.

  • http://www.heatherphysioc.com/ Heather Physioc SEO

    The “calculations” of combining one variable and another remind me of Wolfram Alpha – which is remarkably powerful and I didn’t give nearly enough credit fo being awesome (albeit not popular) way back when. It’s really quite intuitive and impressive. I think this is the first major initiative from Facebook’s court that has a) not been painfully intrusive and difficult to wrap one’s brain around, and to me more importantly, b) really furthered what I believe their core mission is – connecting people. Some of the search examples they gave in the explanation video with the developers make total sense. How many times have I had to piece together a bunch of information, or scroll for miles, to find what it is I really want? At the time I probably got a little annoyed, accepted that the technology didn’t yet exist on the platform and moved on. I know it isn’t the same thing as web search, but I do hope that it provides a viable option for traffic diversification. I’m anxious to see the implications Facebook Social Graph Search will have on web search market share in the long-term.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mckanedavis McKane Davis

    Thanks for this post. really appreciate it. Fascinating data.

  • http://www.indianetcraft.com/ web hosting india

    Any update by Facebook get hyped by the media… let user decide if it worth it or not. Some time i miss the old Facebook.. as i don’t like to new timeline well enough but some how started to like it because it enabled us to add events on backdate as well.. lets see what we can do with Facebook Graph Search… cheers

  • Abdul Wahab

    this is not traditional search engine so far.. it just shows data within facebook or wikipedia etc.. not from around the web

  • http://twitter.com/TomSullivan Thomas Sullivan

    Thanks Danny. Looks interesting, at least. As with your Newport Bch. example, will be more or less useful depending on inputs. Garbage in…

    Big red flag would be that the #1 result in the MUSIC search example was Robin Williams.

  • http://www.stoneig.com/ Matt Roney

    So, basically, businesses will be trying EVEN HARDER for Facebook likes.

  • Abdul Wahab

    New player in the tournament.. it will be more fun and learning….

  • http://twitter.com/kevinverto Kevin Vertommen

    I bet marketeers could do some cool stuff with this if it would allow them to use the Graph Search in combination with status updates for a limited group of fans (~ Google+ circles).

  • http://www.stanleyoppenheimer.com searchengineman

    About bloody time..one of the reasons I steered clear of Facebook, was the lack of search…I only kept a profile if I need to connect to some damn service. As an advertiser this can only mean good things..because now Facebook can monetize and better target ADS (Wow Relevant ads!). When this comes out a lot of regrettable stuff is going to hit the fan, when viewed thru these search filters. Whether or not linkedin is in danger..(I don’t think so). Linkedin could easily add the same functionality to its data. Besides only power users & recruiters are going searches stuff the way Danny suggests….

  • http://iiscn.wordpress.com/about/ yt75

    Facebook is the pinnacle of boring,
    plebeian, ultra-utilitarianism

  • http://www.stanleyoppenheimer.com searchengineman

    Found this article that truly explored how creepy this can get
    courtesy of threadwatch. I have to give this guy imagination.
    Danny’s example pale–the article blanked out the faces results to protect them.
    http://www.threadwatch.org/node/16447

  • http://www.facebook.com/pallav.kaushish Pallav Kaushish

    Looks very fascinating. Of course it will turn into a stalking engine but ignoring the downside, it can help marketers in a lot of ways like profiling out people who love a particular genre of music in a city and then studying their social habits of likes, shares and comments.
    People who have an extended network on facebook can take serious advantage of this new graph search. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about all the possibilities it’s gonna open up. Can’t wait to lay my hands on it..

  • BigWhiteDog

    I don’t see it touching Yelp as bad comments can be deleted from a page, likes are earned form people who have never even been to the venue and I have very few friends in many of the places that I visit so it does no good to look for places my friends like.

  • Takeshi Young

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