As CMSWire reported, Facebook has unveiled Graph Search as a potentially massive new feature to help find relevant results among the photos, likes and other information that users put up on the social service. But what can it do for digital marketing?
Graph Search adds context to searching in the social media service. The beauty appears to be in the back end, as it ties your search terms like "family," "friends," "restaurants" and "music" into smart tags that will result in the relevant data from your and your friends' content appearing in your results.
Using the search engine, you can divide your social world up into those near and close to you, those wider afield or those who might be of use in the quest for certain information. "Friends who have seen the new Batman movie" for instance might be useful if you're thinking of checking out the Dark Knight.
CMSWire also reported that Graph Search, which is currently in beta and will roll out to users in the coming weeks, appears a bit sketchy. It may increase user concerns about privacy invasion and not offer a whole lot in return. So is Graph Search something that will benefit digital marketers, or will it wind up hurting them more than helping them? Broader expert opinion seems divided. In an effort to be even-handed, we decided to summarize two positive and two negative views on what Graph Search may mean for digital marketers.
Canada.com is very bullish on Graph Search’s potential as a digital marketing tool, saying it “may give advertisers better ammunition to target users.” A Canada.com article on Graph Search quotes Brian Blau, research director in consumer technologies for research firm Gartner Inc., as saying users on Facebook now have a way to direct their searches and marketers can use these directed searches on Facebook in the same way they use keyword searches on Google. In addition, the article quotes Nigel Wallis of IDC Canada as saying offering a search that’s not just validated, but validated by a user’s friends should be a powerful tool and help digital marketers add “legitimacy” to their Facebook efforts.
In addition, the folks at Wired are gushing about Graph Search, with columnist Ryan Tate saying it made him a “Facebook addict.” Why should digital marketers care whether Tate is addicted to Facebook or not? Consider that as a result of Graph Search, he has already started “liking” the pages of restaurants he and his friends favor. And presumably a Wired columnist is probably the kind of person digital marketers are targeting. Add that Tate admits he is now “itching” to share more information about products he likes on Facebook and you can see the potential is quite high.
Of course, not everyone agrees Graph Search is such a great thing. For example, technology blogger Steve Cheney says much of the Facebook data collected by Graph Search is "dirty," meaning it is out of date. "It turns out as much as half of the links between objects and interests contained in FB are dirty — i.e. there is no true affinity between the like and the object or it’s stale," states Cheney. "Never mind does the data not really represent user intent… but the user did not even ‘like’ what she was liking."
Cheney attributes a high volume of dirty Facebook data to efforts by major CPG brands to "buy" likes by offering rewards for liking their products, driving consumers with no real interest to click like and never pay attention again.
And VentureBeat warns that Facebook users should go through their list of likes and delete anything that may prove too embarrassing or personal to share with marketers or the general population. “Facebook is like a safe containing a ton of your personal information — which you've purposefully and willfully cracked with an axe,” comments an article on Search Graph and its supposed infringements on user privacy.
Obviously some Facebook users love Social Graph and others hate it, so maybe the best advice for digital marketers who want to tap its potential without alienating consumers is the same advice customers are always urged to follow: Caveat emptor.