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Facebook announced Graph Search back in January, a new type of search engine that lets you search through people, photos, places, and interests using natural language queries such as “Friends who live in New York City.”  One of the major limitations of Facebook’s Graph Search is that it relies on the data that people share with the service to help improve its usefulness, so the less information people share, the less useful the results will be.  However, given the vast amount of information people have put on their Facebook profiles, I don’t see that as a being a major problem at this point in time, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind.

Right now, the feature is still in beta, which means that not everyone who uses Facebook has access to it.  That being said, there are still many people who do have access to the Graph Search beta, and we decided to take a look at how the people who were given access to Graph Search are (or aren’t) using it in their daily lives and what they think about it.

Presentation of Data

One of the common themes I ran across was that people really liked the way Graph Search displays information, where the results that appear are actual content as opposed to blue links that lead you to the information you’re looking for.  And this consensus goes along with what Mark Zuckerberg said during his presentation, Graph Search is meant to provide answers to questions–not a page of links.

It’s a different approach to search, for sure, and perhaps a better and more innovative one than what we’ve become accustomed to with Google.  This type of search may also be difficult for Google to replicate for its users without deep social knowledge about them (I think that’s where Google+ comes in), but it could also be difficult because Google really doesn’t have the right to republish third-parties content without their permission.

Nonetheless, the style and presentation of data seems to be one of the biggest pluses Graph Search has going for it.

The Usage

There is no doubt that Graph Search is a useful tool, however, the question now is: how will Facebook continue to develop it to make it even more useful?  We already have seen that Facebook has integrated Bing into Graph Search, so you can search queries like, “What’s the weather in New York City?”  The Bing integration also allows Graph Search to handle searches that can’t be answered well with its own technology, which definitely leaves the door open for further exploration.

Right now, it seems that people are using Facebook Graph Search as a way to learn more about their friends and/or find new friends.  For example, people are using Graph Search to find photos taken by friends in a particular place or to find friends or a friend who like what you like.  One of the more interesting uses of Graph Search that I’ve seen was from someone who said they use it to find people who live in cities that they are speaking in.  I like the creativity there, that’s the kind of usage I’d love hear more about.

Yeah, It’s Cool But…

Facebook Graph Search is cool, it’s a new feature with some nifty tricks, but some people just don’t see the value of it.  The lack of value appears to be caused by not knowing what to search for, or because the person doesn’t have an immediate need for such a feature.  I can’t help but think of this Tweet that I ran across, which probably illustrates how many people feel about the new Facebook feature.  The Tweet reads, “How many times did I use FB Graph Search since I tried it? 0. Really. It’s great. But.”

Facebook already knows that this could pose a real problem, they can’t have people trying it once just to check it out and then never using it again. Which is exactly why they made this post in their Newsroom blog last month, which shows off some cool ways to use Facebook Graph Search.  Facebook needs to get people hooked on this kind of search, because it will play a vital role in the company’s importance down the road.

What About You?

Do you have Facebook Graph Search?  If so, how are you using it?

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