The much hyped Facebook Press Event of yesterday took a few people by surprise.
Talk of a Facebook mobile phone, Timeline changes (which we'd said we expected) and all manner of possibilities we mentioned in the week leading up to the event, were all put forward.
In the end though, Facebook proved there a still a few things it can keep relatively secret until release (although it is somewhat amusing to read comments today from some commentators who say they knew what it'd be about - they just didn't say).
Facebook GraphSearch will soon be with us. Right now it is only available to a handful of users globally and is going to undergo a 'beta' phase so Facebook engineers can iron out any faults the testers uncover.
Well, the first thing to say is we're delighted with the announcement. Clients and our followers will be very aware we have criticised Facebook search capabilities for a long time. Beyond searching for someone you know is out there, they've been largely useless for far too long.
Their marketing potential has been low, the ability to find an audience pales into insignificance compared to Twitter and GraphSearch should change this.
So when Mark Zuckerberg told his captive audience that Facebook was completely overhauling its search feature, it was news welcomed by all.
Zuckerberg explains the thinking behind GraphSearch
What will it do?
The basic theory behind GraphSearch is to give users the ability to search their entire Timeline, and that of their 'Friends' where Privacy settings allow them acess to.
However, you'll be able to do so in a highly intelligent and structured way, delivering a set of results that are much more powerful than anything the social media channel has ever offered before.
At this point there is no ultimate clarification about what the Privacy implications will be on those that have Liked a brand or business page, so there are elements of the full extent of search results that nobody can be entirely sure of at present.
What we do know for certain is that Sponsored Stories will be delivered in search results, so Facebook has opened the door for a higher profile view of those advertisers that pay for their brand to be shown to the Facebook world.
The GraphSearch engine works on a set number of criteria. There are defined categories in which you'll be able to search.
You can see a full structured search used as an example in the screenshot below. This is from the Facebook GraphSearch promotional page that is now live. In this example, it shows a search for "People who like Cycling and live in Seattle, Washington".
Facebook GraphSearch promotional page example
Initial search categories
We know for certain that the initial search categories that beta users are seeing include the following as items you can search through:
Based on this set of categories you might be forgiven for thinking the search potential is limited - but as we've already said there is yet to be confirmation of the search potential within Likes of brand pages (i.e. will a brand be able to search through the public data of anyone that has Liked their page).
It's below the initial selection of search set that it gets very interesting though, as you can see from the screenshot below (from the Privacy information Facebook have initially provided for GraphSearch) of the possible search elements you can then refine:
Screenshot of a refined search, showing deeper level searches for specific information
Potential search power
If we look at the current categories and the potential elements of search, then any of the following could be acceptable searches (Privacy setting dependent):
Based on that set of examples alone, if you try to apply your own business brand to each set and think about what you could possibly look for - the potential is collosal.
It should also be noted that the deployment of GraphSearch comes through Facebook's partnership with Microsoft's search engine - BING, so the search technology should be powerful, well tested and proven.
Facebook have given you a chance to see a basic search
Facebook have provided a very basic personal demonstration of GraphSearch for everyone to try. If you click on the image below you'll be taken to the GraphSearch page. Scroll down it until you come to the section shown below (it's a video) and just above it you'll see a link. Click the "Try a Search" link we've highlghted in a red oval.
Facebook will run GraphSearch on your friends and your City, and return a dataset of people who your friends know that live in your City. It isn't a search you can change, but it's a good example of how it might work at the most basic level.
Try Facebook GraphSearch
Anyone with concerns about their Privacy in respect of the above example should consider this - it's nothing people can't see now.
They'd simply look at their Friends of their Friends in cases where they haven't locked down their Privacy options properly. From there, they could go through everyone their Friend is a Friend with and see where they lived if their profile Privacy is configured to allow it.
Brand power and public release
The major question right now is how far the search power will extend to brands and business pages. Some commentators seem to think Privacy controls will vastly limit the marketing prowess of GraphSearch.
Our experience is that Privacy control understanding is limited on Facebook. Most users who might complain about Privacy tend to be those that simply haven't configured it correctly, so the audience availability could be much larger than many pessimists might think.
How long it'll be before GraphSearch is publically available? We don't know yet.
We'll be adding it to training schedules as soon as it is and we'll keep you fully updated on the potential to mine Facebook data for marketing purposes through GraphSearch.