For those of you who were busy hibernating yesterday, Facebook rolled out what is fundamentally the biggest change to its platform (arguably) ever: Graph Search. (Facebook really loves that “graph” word.) This new addition, which is currently still in beta, uses natural language processing algorithms that scour your social graph and display what the company calls “answers, not links” to your queries.
The Graph Search beta is very limited at first, available only in English and focusing on four core areas: people, photos, places and interests. While this might seem very limited at first, it will undoubtedly get very cool very fast. Like most algorithms, as more questions and answers are fed into the system, it gets smarter about the results it displays.
Search Is Going to Get Uber-Personal, Uber-Fast
Facebook has launched what could be a perfect counterpoint to Google’s attempts to make search personalized to every individual. Facebook was always walled off to Google, and for good reason. Then Google had a major falling out with Twitter, which further limited its ability to collect information about individual people. Google first tried to attack the challenge of displaying personalized results by trying to infer as much information about people as they could.
While the implicit social graph was an ingenious way to work with what Google had, it didn’t quite go far enough, leading to the eventual launches of Google Plus and Search Plus Your World. Google realized that it needed to ask people to feed information about people, places, photos and interests into its own systems.
Facebook, on the other hand, has been collecting information on the things that we like, the places we visit, the photos we share and the people we are connected to for eight years now. This puts it in a unique place to make search get extremely personal, extremely fast. Natural language algorithms are relatively easy to build if you have the engineering bench strength. Social graphs are not.
Getting Ahead of the Game Right Now
There’s a lot of speculation floating around the Internet as to what this new tool will mean for brands. While there is undoubtedly going to be a paid option rolled out for brands in these search results, as some analysts are predicting, there is an opportunity for your brand to take advantage of this new technology much in the same way that some brands initially embraced the importance of SEO and social media best practices. You know, the brands that aren’t paying a lot of money to either Google or Facebook for advertising.
Brands that can naturally embed themselves in the stories created by Facebook users will ultimately reap the benefits of Graph Search early on. To ironically quote Google, “Anchor your brand’s story in a particular moment in place and time and let them discover it — in effect becoming part of their stories as well.” Imagine how to weave your brand’s larger narrative into “photos my friends like,” “videos I’ve shared,” or “vegan restaurants nearby that my friends like.” Embed your larger brand story in real places and events, and associate it with real people.
Make your brand into a landmark, something lasting, something that matters to people on a deeper level than good customer service or great products at great prices. Find ways for your brand to engage people on a higher plane. Become part of a wide variety of shared consumer experiences, and you will have already prepared your brand to be successful for whatever develops as a result from Graph Search.
Or just wait for the paid option. …