By now you've most likely heard of Facebook's new Graph Search, which essentially allows you to search for things based on the interests and recommendations of your friends, as well as their friends. While the tool should potentially be useful for searching for specific pieces of information on Facebook, it is, at least in its beta version, seriously flawed.
I've spent the last week testing Graph Search, and I'm disappointed with it. Sure, it performs well when telling you who your friends are, what categories they fall under, where they live and what they do, but as of now that's about it. Instead of developing an innovative search tool that gives us a new way to search and offers an information alternative, Graph Search is your same cookie cutter search engine. If you ask former Facebook executive Dave Morin, this tool is nothing new at all -- it's a product that existed as far back as 2006, but was eventually eliminated.
Here are the three big problems I see with Facebook's Graph Search:
1. The interface. The top search bar with drop down results is limited and isn't user-friendly for those who are accustomed to searching for things and getting more than five or six items from a drop down.
2. The lack of privacy. People are going to get to see everything you have ever liked, things you probably don't even realize you liked and hardly recommend to friends.
3. Using 'likes' as recommendations. Search engine? A more accurate description is "like engine."
The most glaring issue is basing its search results on the Like button -- that feature that some of us never use and others use hundreds of times a day without thinking about it. Facebook users often are encouraged to like a page to get additional information, make a comment, complain, enter a contest or because a friend asked them to even though they know nothing about that page or business.
So, in basing its search results on likes, Facebook is making some big assumptions:
- What you liked, say, five years ago, you still like.
- When you liked a page, it means you highly recommend that page or business to your friends.
- That you weren't tricked or accidentally liked something.
- That you audit your likes, or even know how to.
It's wrong to make all of those assumptions. Also keep in mind that people don't always like a business on Facebook that they like in real life. For instance, would I really have a burning desire to like my local Chinese restaurant on Facebook? The food is awesome, but unless I click on that Like button, my friends will never know it's my favorite place when they search Facebook for a Chinese restaurant in my area.
What this means for business and brand pages: It will become necessary to get as many likes as possible if you have any hope of showing up in the Graph Search. Don't be surprised if many companies start advertising and campaigning specifically to get people to like their pages, which means the Like action will lose its relevance, as will the Graph Search data.
Do you think Graph Search will be a useful new tool for businesses? Let us know in the comments below.
Scott Levy is the founder and CEO of Fuel Online, an online marketing agency that focuses on social media and SEO. He has been specializing in online marketing for more than 15 years and is a respected speaker, writer and consultant. Scott is based in Nashville. Follow him on Twitter at @FuelOnline or on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/FuelInternetMarketing