The latest addition to the ever changing cyber universe of Facebook includes what the developers at Facebook are calling Facebook Graph Search. Ever since its beta launch around mid January, the new feature/product has been subjected to a lot of speculation. Some say that it is a death certificate for search engine giants like Google and Yelp. Others say it will only affect Google’s advertisers and yet some other go on to say that Graph Search is just another needless innovation from Facebook. What kind of an impact it will actually have is something only time will tell. Until then all we can do is make calculated guesses.
What is it?
Facebook’s Graph Search is similar to a local search engine. A search engine that gives you results based on who you know and what they like. It looks like an extension of the Facebook ads and sponsored stories with a pinch on inbound marketing techniques that redirect to these ads and sponsored stories. So now you can find out how many of your friends share the same interests as you along with a few other demographics such as the location. The basic idea seems to be that people like to get answers and opinions from other people that they trust. While that is definitely true and such an occurrence is not commonplace when it comes to Google and Yelp, it is certainly not enough to bring down a search giant like Google.
While Facebook is currently taking baby steps in search, Google has fully developed wings. While on the outside, Graph Search might look like a competitor to Google, it is not even close to it. The reason being that Google is no longer interested in answering your questions- it is trying to give you answers before you even ask a question. As annoying as that might sound to some, it is actually working. Google’s guesses are getting more accurate by the day and the user experience is unmatched by any other search engine.
Another reason why Graph Search is not a competitor to Google Search is its knowledge bank. It is definitely a great tool to find out what food or movies your friends like. This is its biggest limitation. Anybody who would like to find a good restaurant wouldn’t just take the opinion of a handful of people to judge a restaurant. They’d go to Yelp instead or IMDB in case of movies and Google for the rest of their search needs.
Mixed bag for advertisers:
There is a strong opinion among analysts that Graph Search is a definite competitor to Google’s advertisers but again its as much a mixed bag as Facebook ads. Yes they are pretty good but the ROI on advertising income beats that of Facebook’s on any day simply because of the kind of reach that Google has. While people would definitely like to endorse brands that are trusted by someone they know, they also like to see how many people trust these brands. While Facebook can provide this to a certain extent, Google does it better. On the other hand, Graph Search requires an endless litany of modifiers to get anything valuable, compared to Google where a single word can get you highly valuable results.
Facebook’s Graph Search is a very good example of how social media is evolving and the expanding role it will play in our lives. But it is definitely not a competitor to Google. It is on its own a useful tool and is likely to play an important role in deciding how online marketing will evolve. If anything, Graph Search just adds some big guns to Facebook’s advertising arsenal and nothing more than that.