Facebook's new Graph Search functionality will revolutionise the way brands think about and value the social network, a digital analyst has told B&T.
Launched yesterday, the Graph Search tool enables Facebook users to navigate their web of existing connections and find new ones within the network of one billion people, based on criteria like people, location, interests and photos.
Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page in which users can enter phrases relating to these four points of interest, such as: "my friends in Sydney who like jogging", “restaurants in Melbourne which serve Indian food” and “photos of my family before 2000”.
These searches will then reveal those sets of people, places, photos or other content that's been shared on Facebook.
The functionality is predicted to further mould Facebook into a forum for peer-to-peer recommendations in which searches relating to products and services, such as "clothing brands my friends like" or "shampoo my friends like", might become common.
Midu Chandra, director of social media at Reprise Media said: "I think it's quite revolutionary. I think it will become very important in how influential Facebook actually becomes for brands because people could be asking things like 'what cars do my friends recommend?' From a brand's perspective it really brings Facebook back into that peer-to-peer influence space."
Differentiating it from a web search engine is that Graph Search operates within the Facebook social network only.
While one can search for testimonials on Google, Chandra stressed that the search results from a Facebook Graph Search would be more likely to affect purchase habits of the searcher because they are from people within his/her network.
"Google addresses the world. It will run a search and it will bring back what people around the world are saying and thinking, but I think the lens that Facebook applies to it is the lens of my world which is more impactful.
"The thing about Facebook that brands struggle with is they know the audience is there, but they don't know how to actually bring it back to what it's doing for their brand in terms of sales and customer service. I think this all leads down that track," said Chandra.
Graph Search respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. In the words of Facebook. “It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.”
Facebook has said the roll-out will be “slow”. The functionality is currently in a beta testing phase, with Facebook users advised to sign up to be considered for the trial.
The social network will also be asking for feedback from these initial users in order to make any improvements before the search tool goes live.
At the launch press conference CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg indicated monetisation in the form of advertising would come in time, but for now the company is focusing on getting the product out of its initial beta version.
Facebook's stock has rallied in recent weeks but the shares remain below their Initial Public Offering price of US$38. Following the search annoucement the social network's stock slipped 2.7%, closing at US$30.10.
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