Graph Search is the new search feature from Facebook that allows users to use the social network in a more deliberate manner. I was pretty excited about the theoretical possibilites for Graph Search when Facebook announced its release, but after using Graph Search it’s evident that something is missing. There aren’t enough social signals on Facebook to realize its potential.
This means that Facebook’s capability to compete with the recommendation features of Google, Yelp and others is contingent upon its users to increase their social signals.
The good stuff
There are a lot of things to love about Graph Search:
- Pictures are easy to navigate and they look fantastic. Pinterestesque, even.
- Searching for things is very easy and intuitive to do.
- There are no advertisements in the search results.
- It’s difficult to use the tool to search Bing
There is no doubt that Graph Search will increase time on-site (though without advertisments this doesn’t do as much for Facebook’s bottom line). I love how Graph Search gives users an improved interface and better accessibility to information. But….
The elephant in the room
Here’s the problem: believe it or not, people don’t Like nearly enough stuff to make Graph Search relevant. This isn’t an observation unique to me as many people have written the same critique. For example: I have a diverse group of Facebook friends that hovers somewhere North of 1000. This is modest by some standards but much bigger than a typical Facebook user. But when I looked for restaurants and venues in Seattle and Cincinnati, I got very few returns on the Graph Search SERP. The returns were pretty pathetic, actually. When I typed in something generic like “hamburger” I got somewhat better results, although I would have gotten a much more satisfying result on Google or Bing.
In order for Graph Search to be successful Facebook needs people to Like a lot more things than they do. An article on The Motley Fool argues that Graph Search will cause people to Like more stuff, but I have a hard time believing that. Think about the logic of that reasoning: would a vast majority of Facebook’s billion users radically change their online behavior to benefit the Graph Search experience for their friends? It sounds like the fallacious argument for (now floundering) Foursquare. It’s more likely that Facebookers will use the tool as is and disregard it for “long tail” searches.
I suspect that Facebook will have to make Graph Search more useful, independent of its users. Maybe they would be able to integrate Foursquare check-ins into their social graph (since Foursquare is purportedly preparing to sell). Or maybe they could integrate their Amazon-like “people who liked this liked that” functionality more prominently.
In any case, Graph Search is a brilliant idea that needs a lot more data to be fully realized.
What do you think? Have you tried out Graph Search? What are your impressions? How do you fare on specific queries?