Hooray, Facebook Graph Search is here!
Last week, the new Facebook search tool started rolling out broadly to everyone who uses Facebook in U.S. English.
We’ve already talked about how to prepare your business for its arrival, so now it’s time to dive into the search functionality. Is it any good?
My opinion? It’s all in how you use it. For a regular user, it’s probably more of a novelty. But if you run a Facebook Page for a brand, there’s big potential there. Here are my top Facebook Graph Search tips, with suggested searches to help you get to know how things work.
1. Let Facebook complete your search.
Facebook says that the search uses “natural language” processing, so you just need to search for what you want using plain English. But actually it’s a little trickier than that.
Graph Search isn’t a search engine like Google. Facebook has a specific way it can understand your questions, and it tries to help you out by auto-completing or even rephrasing your questions. For your best results, you’ll want to see Graph Search “grasp” your search, so to speak, by completing it in bold before hitting enter.
For example, if I wanted to know which of my friends like the band The Replacements, I would search like this and choose an option from the drop-down that Facebook displays.
Approaching searches this way will save you lots of frustration and will begin to show you what Facebook understands — and doesn’t.
When you first get started with Graph Search, it’s hard to know what’s possible in terms of search. One way Facebook helps you out is that it gives you clues with a trail of links you can follow.
Say I did this search. Clicking on the link (that I highlighted in red) below leads me…
to another link that I can click to search…
…which leads me to this search.
As your search narrows, you’ll start to see familiar faces and maybe some potential for making a new connection.
As soon as you do any sort of search at all, you’ll see results in the main page and a pretty elaborate sidebar along the right side. Use it!
Don’t forget to click the “See More” option, too. Fiddling with the options over here is a great way to figure out just how specific Facebook can get with your query.
4. Get content ideas from your fans.
If you run a brand’s Page, Graph Search provides a nice portal into the interests of your fans. For instance, it’s news to me that people who like Raven Tools also like hiking and Scrabble. Maybe there are some future content ideas there.
Find movies, music, TV shows, games and other Pages your fans like. You can also see what Facebook Groups they’ve joined.
5. See what works for other Pages.
You can also use Graph Search to mine for content that’s working for your target audience.
Try searching for keywords that are important to your brand. For instance, I might search for “Pages liked by marketers” or “Pages liked by people who like search engine optimization.”
The idea is to find new sources that people like that are related to what you do. Then it’s easy to expand your search to photos and videos…
…and get a quick overview of what similar Pages in your industry are posting. Helpfully, the number of likes and comments is appended to each element, so a quick glance can tell you what content is getting the best results. What can you learn from the trends, or create that will strike the same nerve?
6. Double-check your brand reputation.
With all this new information now available to anyone, it’s a good idea to make sure your brand’s reputation isn’t at risk.
You might want to take a look at what your brand’s employees have “liked” on Facebook to make sure there are no surprises. Yes, it might seem a little invasive – but remember that anyone on Facebook can do these same searches.
For instance, I did a search for interests of Raven employees:
Beer, blogging and PHP. No surprises there. You can also check out Pages your employees have liked:
And even photos and videos:
To be really thorough, you can expand your search to friends of employees, too.
Whew. Looks like Raven employees and their friends pass the test.
If you uncover anything worrisome, you may want to talk with staff about Facebook privacy settings.
7. Try your luck.
Look for the “Discover Something New” button at the bottom of the sidebar of any search.
It’s the equivalent of Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, in that it takes you to a surprise search idea. Keep refreshing to see a variety of multimedia searches, including stuff you probably wouldn’t have thought of. My blind searching turned up the odd and vaguely menacing “People who are not my friends” and “Interests liked by people who have similar interests to mine.”
8. Know its limitations.
Graph Search will get more powerful soon, as Facebook plans to add the ability to search the text of status updates and updates by third-party applications, such as Spotify.
But right now, Facebook only knows the stuff people have committed to liking — mostly in their “About” section. In other words, your friend could listen to Justin Bieber all day on Spotify, but if he doesn’t “like” his brand Page on Facebook, he won’t show up in a search for friends who are Beliebers.
That means searches are going to be far from thorough — at least for now. In the meantime, it’s still worth experimenting with Graph Search.