Google has held online Search in an iron grip ever since its IPO in late 2004. So much so that, somewhere along the way, the word Google itself became part of our lexicon, a term that meant to search for something online.” Have that annoying friend who asks you when a movie is releasing, or who sings a particular song? Dude, just Google it.
But Google suffers from one unavoidable flaw: Searches that arent finely-targeted can produce a bevy of irrelevant and/or unhelpful results, even when using Googles Search Tools to refine them. In other words, browsing is much more difficult than searching, near impossible. Couple that with the fact that only Google knows its own search algorithms, and this means companies who want Google to direct users to their own domains in some fashion other than advertisementsi.e. every company that wants Google users to spend money on their productsare left mostly guessing at ways to optimize their website for Google search.
Facebook has long known of this missing element in Google’s Search experience, just as they knew how poorly their own platform leveraged Search throughout its lifespan; CEO Mark Zuckerberg even dropped hints about Facebooks renewed interest in Search as early as September of last year. To their credit, Google, being equally aware of Facebooks inevitable impending foray into Search, launched the Google+ network to establish the kind of social connections between its users that Facebook already had, in order to solve this problem before Facebook did.
While the launch of Google+ was mildly successful, as most of us know, Google+s adoption rate and user base pale in comparison to Facebooks. But only recently has the Graph Search feature begun rolling out for Facebook users, and it would seem the bruised egos from Facebooks mid-2012 IPO woes, combined with its prior Search deficiencies, indicate that Graph Search is designed to usher in a huge shift in the marketing landscape.
Why is marketing most important? Mainly because users will inherently trust any Graph Search results to be more connected with the people or things they already like, as well as the people or things they already Like (see what I did there?). Want to know how many of your friends enjoy a certain band before you download their music? With Graph Search, not only will you see which Friends like that band, but youll make a judgment call based on those specific results; i.e. Because Friend X likes Radiohead, I probably will toobecause I already know we have very similar tastes in music and artists.
In this way, Facebook cashes in on our minds inherent tendency to gauge the credibility of something based on its connection to our personal friend, not just an online connection or personality. On the flip side, do we care what music Google listens to? No, because Google is not even a person (Citizens United be damned). Thus Facebook is now effectively using its most valuable resourceits usersto create game-changing tools that no one else can, and Graph Search may be their greatest achievement yet. But, as is always the case with predictions, I could be wrongafter all, not everyone is sold on Graph Search. And many users constantly worry about privacy concerns and consider pulling back their interaction with the social network.
But for now the question is: How does mobile factor into this new feature? After all, Zuckerberg himself has admitted that mobile will drive Facebooks revenue for years to comeyet Graph Search will not immediately be available as a feature through the Facebook app. Thoughts differ on whether this is a wise move on Facebook’s part. So exactly how and when will Graph Search and Facebooks mobile strategy converge? What could this mean for location-based social marketing?
Think of standing in a movie theater lobby, opening your Facebook app and instantly viewing every Facebook Friends approval ratings of each film playing that night–as well as which Friends are at the theater with you. Or walking into a car dealership and holding up your phone (or just looking through your Google Glass) at car models in the showroom, with your Friends avatars and comments hovering above them. Of course, the possibilities go on. Whatever the result, well be fascinated to see how Graph Searchs mobile strategy develops in 2013.