Jan. 20--Having passed the 1 billion active user mark in 2012, Facebook's goal in 2013 is to keep those users engaged and involved in the Facebook ecosystem.
Facebook isn't a perfect service, but it does make an effort to address areas of deficiency. When Instagram become a photo-sharing sensation, Facebook bought them to bolster its own photo product. Skype integration was added in 2011 to allow Facebook users to video call.
This week, Facebook announced a transformation of its search platform, which has needed attention for some time.
Here's how it works:
Facebook's search system was not as comprehensive as it could have been, given the massive amount of social data the company has access to. Users could search for the titles of people, places, things and events, but they'd have to visit each individual node to learn more about them or understand how they fit into their social network.
Facebook's new search product, "Graph Search," aims to change that by allowing users to more fully explore the relationships and connections between other Facebook users.
Where traditional search uses keywords as a search starting point, Graph Search is more conversational. Instead of asking Google to search for "St. Cloud restaurants," users can query Facebook Graph Search for "restaurants in St. Cloud liked by my friends older than 21 years." Planning a mixer for single young professionals? Ask Graph Search for a list of "friends and friends of friends that are single between 21 and 35."
Where a general Web search might give you a complete list of restaurants in St. Cloud or a link to a list of singles websites, you'd still have to parse through the resulting information yourself to narrow it down. The Facebook searches, though, would give you more relevant results based on your social network and other selected criteria. It allows users to harness the power of their social network to find out more information about relevant hobbies, events and entertainment.
Facebook hasn't totally abandoned traditional search, though. They've partnered with Bing to show normal search results for general terms, such as "butterflies" or "baseball."
Facebook also says Graph Search respects the privacy settings of the user attached to each piece of searchable information, so results involving your network information should only be available to those specified in your privacy settings.
'Likes' and check-ins
Graph search makes Facebook "likes," check-ins and other Facebook interaction much more useful. Instead of being essentially small bits of flair on personal profiles, "likes" become searchable tools that help users more easily understand the information in their social network.
The new search may prompt more engagement by "disconnected" users, or those who don't "like" anything or interact with Facebook beyond friending. Users' "like" information is now more prevalent and useful through Graph Searches that may occur in their network. Users might be more likely to "like" a business after having a good experience there if they knew it could help others, rather than just being put on a digital "like" list.
"Likes" also will become a bigger deal for businesses. Showing up in a Graph Search for "list of car dealerships liked by my friends" will have actual value now, instead of being a badge a user might happen upon when viewing a specific profile.
This also jump-starts Facebook's local presence, by giving businesses without a Facebook page a reason to sign up, since users can't "like" a page that doesn't exist.
Graph Search is slowly being rolled out to the public but isn't available to everyone yet. Interested users can sign up to be a part of a beta program.
To view Facebook's introductory videos on Graph Search and get involved in the beta, visit the hub at facebook.com/about/graphsearch.
(c)2013 the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.)
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