When Facebook announced its “Graph Search” in January, many people did not fully grasp the concept or its disruptive potential. And this sentiment isn’t surprising. Since it’s creation, Facebook has been known as mainly a social network, an online home for friends, colleagues and family members to interact and connect. When people think Facebook, the first association made is usually likes, pokes and embarrassing photos – not useful local information.
What these people don’t necessarily realize is that Facebook has the potential to be an absolute giant in the search ecosystem. With over a billion users worldwide, Facebook has the scale to pose a serious threat to Google’s stronghold on the search ecosystem. And Graph Search, which is currently being rolled out to the general public, could be the catalyst that leads Facebook to seismically shake up the online search landscape and significantly increase their share of local search.
For those unfamiliar with its functionality, Graph Search utilizes Facebook’s social data, enabling the consumer to find “people, places and things” on a significantly more personal level than is currently available in other search engines. Instead of simply allowing you to search for coffee shops in New York City, you can search for coffee shops in New York City that your Facebook friends have been to, or even coffee shops in New York City that your friends have liked.
Although Facebook’s Graph Search is still in its early stages and missing a critical mass of data points that make it useful, it is already being put to good use. Recently, a coworker of mine used Graph Search to search for accommodations for her upcoming trip to Portugal. The first result in the search was a beautiful hotel that our CTO had visited earlier that year. Instead of having to choose a place to stay based off of the impersonal results of a simple Google search, my coworker was able to find a hotel that a trusted friend had endorsed.
Google’s desire to pursue social, despite being the current undisputed king in search, should not come as a surprise. Recent data has clearly indicated that not only is social much more important in local discovery than had been previously assumed, but Facebook in particular is a larger player in the space than was originally thought. In fact, a recent survey indicated that Facebook accounts for 13% of local search. Furthermore, the Facebook app is the second most used mobile app for on-the-go discovery of local information. And in a study performed for the Yext Quarterly (and prior to the full release of Graph Search), more than twice as many people claimed to use Facebook to discover local businesses rather than specialized sites, like TripAdvisor and OpenTable. This is noted not to discredit these incredibly useful and successful specialized local discovery sites, but to emphasize the potential that Facebook has to shake up the search ecosystem with Graph Search.
Whether Graph Search is the future of local search or not is yet to be seen. However, the fact that search is becoming more and more socially focused is undeniable and, with over one billion users, Facebook is best positioned to take advantage of this trend. Do you know what your social presence looks like? SCORE has partnered with Yext so you can see how you are listed on Facebook and Foursquare as well as a host of premium sites like Yahoo!, Yelp, and Bing instantly with a FREE Business Listings Scan!