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Facebook Launches Graph Search - What Does It All Mean?

Byline:  Daniel Berkal@danielberkal and Laurie Dillon-Schalk@ldillonschalk, Planning Directors, Draftfcb Toronto@draftfcb_TO 

As you've probably heard, Facebook launched Graph Search yesterday, Jan. 15.  We wanted to provide our POV for what it means for brands and marketers.
 
What is Facebook Graph Search?
The ability for Facebook users to search friends or friends of friends for similar interests in people, places and things.
It's going to allow people to search for things like… "Show me all of my friends who like COORS LIGHT"
Or allow brands to target our friends in ONTARIO who like CASINOS
Sign up for beta access here https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch
Why is Facebook Graph Search interesting?
 
1.   New frame of reference for consumers
It changes the consideration set for who people will query when they seek out information.   This is much more like the real world.   When I'm looking for a restaurant recommendation, I don't just shout out my question to the street…  I ask my trusted friends (who I'm assuming have interests that mirror mine) and I prioritize that information.
 
2.  More power from social networks
It creates greater relevance and legitimacy by utilizing the power of your created network.     Facebook has spent years accumulating an absolutely staggering amount of data from its users (a group that includes virtually every media-savvy Canadian consumer).   Now it's building on the power of this data to build a more personalized experience for everyone who interacts.  
 
3.  Acceleration
It will have a massive acceleration effect for popular content.    Because of the exponential nature of dataspread…once something is appreciated by certain members of your social network, that information is much more likely to be more relevantly portrayed in your search information results.   This could potentially be massive for brands.  It's the difference between the current "broken telephone" model of information spread vs. a well-functioning digital phone system. 
 
4.  The continued naturalization of language
It will make the experience more natural in terms of language and phrasing.    The proposed search mechanism will function much like Siri does on the iPhone… creating a more reasonable and human-like interaction between the user and the network.    Imagine the power of being able to search for items that have properties directed towards a brand… without having to use the language of the brand but rather the language of consumers.
 
5.  A rejunvenated Facebook
Facebook is making its platform more relevant.  Presumably this new functionality will rejuvenate existing user activity.  They may deepen their profiles in order to take advantage of the graph search capabilities – leaving advertisers with richer data from which to target users.   Fighting between Google, Facebook, Apple and other players intensifies.  Brands need to understand which applications work together and which do not as the digital ecosystem changes.
 
6.  Privacy issues remain
User privacy continues to be a serious concern for many.  There is no way to opt out of graph search.  If your likes are public, your preferences are visible to all.  Other friends’ photos that are tagged and identify you may be visible to the public.  Privacy settings in general are not well understood.  Strangers may have the ability to gather information on others.  It is not clear if this will extend to users under 17.
 
7.  Advertising opportunities not yet clear
Facebook is creating more relevant search results for brands – by allowing better linkage to expressed interests.  This may encourage brands to shift advertising dollars away from Google search to Facebook.  But the full ability to target friends with this new functionality is not yet clear.
 
We welcome your thoughts. Please comment below.