Graph Search: Facebook's Final Destination?

  |  January 28, 2013   |  Comments

For Graph Search to work, several factors need to change in Facebook's favor.

Have you ever lost your keys? I'm guessing almost everyone reading this has lost their keys at some point. Now, stop and ask yourself what the normal progression of events was immediately after losing your keys.

Initial search, reflection on previous actions, questions to those nearby, followed by an exhaustive search, maybe including those previously queried individuals.

In rare cases the order may be different and steps may be skipped based on specifics, but more often than not, the actions one takes in search of lost keys is likely often as described above. Which brings us to Facebook's Graph Search, a potentially unnatural approach to a naturally learned behavior.

For Graph Search to work, several factors need to change in Facebook's favor. Ignoring for a second the initial issue that users have to engage with the feature, Facebook is still left with two other consumer shifts.

First, Facebook users have to start using Facebook differently. For Graph Search to flourish people will need to engage with brands on a much greater scale then they do at present. I do not doubt the connection numbers that Facebook cites in the Graph Search launch. I am suspect about the quality of brand interactions that can provide meaningful signals and guidance to fellow graph connections. People will need to check in and name-check brands in a more meaningful way with deeper and more honest commentary.

Then, Facebook users have to either replace the normal process they have learned where search starts with a search engine (Google, for most), or add an extra step. It's not impossible to see the second possibility becoming the norm.

Today, people use comparison engines and multiple search engines, so adding Facebook to the mix is plausible. But, it's a shift, and behavior shifts take time. Time for individuals to learn and adopt, and even more time for the masses to collectively embrace it.

This is not to say Facebook's Graph Search isn't the first step toward something better, especially once a mobile solution exists; but for today, if Graph Search is the answer, I really wish Facebook had asked a different question.



Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next.

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