Facebook Graph Search: The Good, The Bad and The Reality

What is Facebook‘s Graph Search? 

Facebook Graph Search - Pillars

If you haven’t heard about it yet or you haven’t had a chance to check it out, Facebook Graph Search is a new search tool.

It was introduced about 3 weeks ago in beta to a limited audience, but it seems it is being widely distributed as I was able to link in without any delay.

There are some definite pros and cons associated with graph search.  I’ll outline them below and present you with some bottom line options to consider.

But, first you need to understand what Graph Search is and a bit about how it works.

Per Mark Zuckerberg, …

“graph search is one of the pillars of Facebook” and he sees the company  “working on it for years to come”. 

Facebook Graph Search = Personalized Results

Graph Search is totally different than a Google Search.  Think of graph search as your personalized search engine.  Using your friends, your likes, your interests and all of the information you’ve shared on Facebook, graph search delivers personalized information back to you, information from the trusted sources you’ve established via your network of friends.

It works differently than a Google searchA Google search uses a combination of language and links to determine which pages it will present you in your searches.  Typically, my Google search will yield similar results as your Google search for the same topic.

Within Facebook graph search uses a combination of language and various relationships between objects (e.g. network, likes, photos, groups, recommendations, etc.).  My results are limited to my sphere of friends and their sphere of friends, and will be totally different than your graph search results for the same topic.

The Benefits of Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search Capture

1.  The clear benefit to Graph Search is it unlocks the vast warehouse of available Facebook information that was difficult to find.  In other words, it is big data at our fingertips.

It has not been easy to find stuff on Facebook and Bing Search was never much help.  Graph Search changes all of that in that it is fast and delivers exactly what you want.  Currently the list of categories includes my friends, photos of my friends, restaurants nearby, games my friends plan and music my friends like with promises from Facebook that this will be expanded. Facebook Pages are also displaying Graph Search to include people or friends who work at or like the company in question.

2.  Because ‘likes’ are a key component of determining Graph Search results, the thumbs up has enhanced importance.

3.  Since photos are a separate category, chances are high it too has enhanced importance as well.

4.  Local brick and mortar businesses should benefit greatly as searches will be for local, nearby locations.  If properly optimized, this new exposure can and should generate new likes, new prospects and new customers.

5.  You have the ability to quickly and strategically extend your network through your friends. You can search “[Person’s Name]’s friends who are my friends,” and within seconds, they’re all listed. You could use this to search for people you want to connect with and determine which of your friends might be able to do an intro. This can be for personal, professional or company related contacts.

Facebook claims that Graph Search will make our worlds smaller.

I don’t think so.  I think it will make our world on Facebook much more intimate as information you wouldn’t have typically shared with all of your friends can now become common knowledge – at least for those curious enough to search for it.

We all have different types of friends.  I have some friends who have weathered four or five decades with me.  I have others who are great-to-know folks, but to whom there are certain things I would never share with them.

All of which leads me to the biggest drawback of Graph Search – privacy.


1.  Privacy – People are genuinely concerned about privacy.  Graph Search is like a robot that goes out and picks up all of the little crumbs we’ve dropped around Facebook and then displays it in one big mosaic.

If you want to view some of the bizarre graph searches that people with slightly twisted minds can come up with, you should visit “Actual Facebook Graph Searches” by Tom Scott.  Totally strange, but true.

If you’re one of these people, then you need to revisit your privacy settings in Facebook.  Click the gear icon at the top-right corner of the site and click “Privacy Settings.” The “Who can see my stuff?” section will dictate what’s visible in searches. You’ll also want to visit the “Timeline and Tagging” section on the left sidebar, and review who can see photos and posts that you’ve been tagged in. (When in doubt, limiting it to “Friends” is the best option.)

2.  National brands with multiple locations will have to rethink their current Facebook strategies as the emphasis has shifted from the corporate level to the local area business outlet.

Bottom Line

  • If you don’t want to be found, take control of your privacy settings and make it so.
  • What happens on Facebook, stays on Facebook, which means 1 billion others will get to see it.  So think twice, three times about what you do in Facebook and online in general.
  • Prepare your business for Graph Search by taking the following steps.
  1. Review your Facebook Page and make certain content and photos up-to-snuff and easy to find.
  2. Use Graph Search to identify customers who already like you and might buy more from you.
  3. Use it to identify prospects who you might want to engage with your sponsored posts.
  4. Ensure your page is rich in information, so people searching Facebook can find your business. Make sure the “About” section of your Facebook page is filled out, complete with business hours and a full description of your services or products. Include the URL of your website to direct customers there.
  5. Don’t step on the privacy of others in your searches or try to “sell” them by exploiting any of their personal information from Facebook. Instead, engage them.
  • Understand there will be additional tweaks, enhancements and undoubtedly new advertising products using Graph Search  down-the-line.

The Genie is officially out of the bottle.

Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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