So, What Do I Really Need to Know About Graph Search?

When Facebook announced that they were rolling out “Graph Search” on January 15, 2013, there was a flurry of excitement and articles. Since then, almost every day I’ve seen a new post or article published, but I’ve been hard pressed to find anything new or innovative being discussed. I’ve taken to Googling “facebook graph search” a few times a day to follow the newest articles, since the results keep changing every few hours as new content is put out. Given all of the information out there- useful, useless and incorrect – I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a list of what you actually need to know about Facebook Graph Search.

1. What is Facebook’s Graph Search?
“Graph Search” is a fancy term for Facebook’s updated and now fully functioning search capabilities. Before you could only search by a user’s exact name (or maiden name), but now you can search for any information that is on someone’s profile and shared with you, including friends of friends who live somewhere or movies my friends who work at my office like. If your follow up question is, “What is the big deal about graph search?”, the answer is that by opening up search capabilities, Facebook is encouraging users to search on their network, instead of using Google or Bing. It remains to be seen how successful it will in taking search away from search engines, but it is definitely the next level of integration between social and search. Also, there is of course the ongoing issue of privacy on Facebook.

2. How do I get Graph Search and what do I do with It?
You can get Facebook Graph Search by signing up to try it on their site. So far it seems that people aren’t really sure what to use graph search for, except of course, to try and find people with contradictory items on their profiles. It can also be used to help boost businesses by optimizing your pages to appear in the most searches, although as I wrote recently graph search may change how brands interact with users. For now, what you do with graph search is search your friends to find out what embarrassing things they have “liked” over the years, so that you can make fun of them next time you see them. You might want to search yourself too, for obvious reasons.

3. What does this mean for my privacy?
As soon as the announcement left Mark Zuckerberg’s mouth, the internet was buzzing with the potential privacy violations from the new Graph Search. Things have settled down, especially since Facebook had updated their privacy information only a few months ago, but there is still a lot of discussion about what Graph Search will mean as far as surfacing information. Fortunately, Facebook has posted a useful Q&A and video on their site to help users change privacy settings and be comfortable.

The bottom line is that users can block information from being searched and can limit who can find their information, but the responsibility to do so lies solely on the user (hence searching yourself above).

4. What should I do now that I know about graph search?
Although most of the videos I watched were pretty useless and consisted only of people showing you a few searches they tried out, there are a few interesting answers out there about how to make sure you really know how you are representing yourself on Facebook. The most humorous answer to this question has to be Grovo’s Facebook Graph Search Training Video, which got picked up by AllFacebook and a few other places (full disclosure: I work at Grovo, but also this video is very funny). On a more serious note, Grovo also has a graph search lesson entitled “Don’t Get Caught in an Awkward Graph Search”, which explains how to protect your profile from appearing in unwanted search results. In a different approach, The Wall Street Journal focuses on making sure that you are untagged in items, not just hiding them from your own timeline, since they will still come up in graph search results. Yahoo Finance, meanwhile, wants users to revisit their activity logs and check what may be hiding there.

5. What else should I know about Graph Search?

  • Graph search will differentiate between adults (aged 18+) and minors (ages 13-17) and will only display minors content to their friends and friends of friends, while adults will have access to all of graph search.
  • Graph search understands some slang, which should make upcoming videos with examples of searches more interesting.
  • No one’s quite sure what the impact of graph search will be, so be sure to stay up to date! In the meantime, sign up for graph search and start playing around.

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