Background: On January 15th, Facebook announced a new feature, currently in beta, that someday could rival search engines like Bing and Google. Facebook Graph Search is being hailed as ‘The Ultimate Personalized Discovery Engine.’ The potential for a product like this is enormous, with users being able to receive personalized results for their queries and (theoretically) advertisers being able to more specifically target audiences.
What Exactly Does It Do? Facebook Graph Search allows you to easily search for specific queries and provides you with results directly from your network or the entire Facebook network across all non-private members. For example, a user can search for something as simple as ‘my friends who have traveled to San Francisco’. Graph Search would then return results with images linking to the profiles to those individuals who have visited San Francisco. You will also receive any relevant content that has been shared by your network and is related to your query. To populate results, Facebook looks at a combination of likes, check-ins, photos, comments, shares and more.
Industry Implications: Graph Search enables extreme targeting that can be specifically related to healthcare/pharma, for example in a search we could see a list of those that have “liked” a particular pharma brand page and identified themselves as either Republican or Democrat, facts that could be relevant in areas that may have pending legislation affecting pharma.
With many groups on Facebook focusing on healthcare professionals there is a large amount of content being shared related to their daily work. On the consumer side, many people choose to self-identify as being part of certain disease/condition communities including cancer, diabetes, asthma, IBD and more.
As Facebook Graph Search grows, we may see a large amount of HCPs and consumers searching for information being shared across the groups they belong to as well as well as information being shared by the individuals they are connected with. This form of search can be a faster, more efficient version which provides them with information backed by their peers. This could lead to high adoption, leading to better ways to target and engage
However, tactically, right now Graph Search doesn’t report much in the way of specifics beyond that there are “more than 100, less than 1,000” people that fit a certain profile. It also doesn’t allow any mass email/invite/note to those specific people from the Graph Search interface. Also, while we can currently target select people within the Facebook ad buying system, that interface just shares with me overall numbers…not individual profiles or access to profiles. Perhaps in the future they’ll bring the power of Graph Search to the ad buying engine to do some deeper dives into their data while also showing off actual profiles/pages of people you’re targeting.
Recommendations: Bottom line, the main question is how this service specifically will benefit marketers. At this time, perhaps mainly because the service is still in beta, there is a limited opportunity for companies to advertise and interact with audiences through Graph Search. In its current form, there’s neat trivia you can extract out of your own profile and friends list, or extract insights from pages you like. But while it’ll highlight people/pages that fit your search filters, there’s nothing you can do with the information easily. That being said, as this search option roles out to more and more users and advertising options directly through Facebook as well as Bing become available, this new feature could present a uniquely targeted program.