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Jan 24, 2013    Uncategorized

Messing Around with Facebook Graph Search

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This morning RCM principal Annie Liao Jones discovered that her Facebook page was looking a little unusual. Her name appeared in white over the cover photo, instead of in black below the photo as it had the day before. Her Pinterest and Instagram feeds were displayed more prominently. Her Notes, which neither she nor anyone else in the world had not thought about since 2009, were right there on the left hand side. These were superficial changes—nothing too destabilizing.

Then she got access to Facebook Graph Search, and the party commenced.

Honeymoon Phase

If you have an iPhone 4S or later, do you remember when you first got the phone? Those ten minutes you spent testing the wits of your monotonous computer friend Siri? Those were times of boundless exploration and naive hope for a simpler future. Then you figured out the five things Siri could do and the fun was over. That’s how it was with us for Facebook Graph Search.

It was thrilling to see that we find out what restaurants our friends were into, which of them went to certain schools, and which of them were engaged, married, or divorced. A lot of posts show up on my newsfeed asking things like, “where should I grab lunch in Bedstuy?”  We even figured out some genuine uses for it, particularly in its ability to search for individuals by job title and place of work.

Limitations Discovered

Facebook can’t discern which friends go to happy hour, and—unfortunately—event listings search is not yet supported. If that is ever implemented it’s going to be a big deal. Say you’re looking for something to do on the weekend. You probably won’t be searching venue by venue as Graph would have you do in its current iteration. However, if you could type “rock concerts in Austin Texas this weekend” or “family friendly events in Austin on Sunday,” and actually get relevant results, that could have a significant impact on event promotion.

The biggest pitfall of Graph Search is that it misses the one thing that makes Facebook a good and unique reference: the people. Sure, you can find restaurants your “friends” “like,” but wouldn’t you be better off actually asking a friend for actual advice. What if the hungry Facebook friend I mentioned earlier had written, “where should I grab lunch in Bedstuy? Craving sweet potato string fries.” Graph Search doesn’t have an answer to that. But this person thinks their friends do.

Our Conclusion

For the time being it seems Facebook is going to still be more about connecting with your friends and the businesses you like, rather than using data mining them to figure out where to get a sandwich. But it’s too early to say how people are actually going to use it. What would you use it for?

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