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Google vs. Graph Search: Did Facebook Turn B2B?

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Imagine if eight years ago someone mentioned that Facebook had the potential to become the most powerful search engines on the web. That person would probably have been considered crazy since Facebook was still in its formative stages, just beginning to take off as a college-centric social networking site. However, after years of ‘facelifts’ including innovative site features and the launch of Facebook’s newest tool - Graph Search - this formerly harebrained notion could be a real possibility.

Graph Search is a new feature within the site that allows Facebook users to search for people, places, restaurants, stores and et cetera without having to leave the page. So how does this search differ from Google or Yahoo? It’s simple. The results from Graph Search stem from the information each user allows Facebook to share.

As The New York Times put it, “Facebook search differs from other search services because of the mountain of social data the company has collected over the years.” Translation: It’s easy for Facebook to collect this data and target audiences because its users keep updating this info through “likes” and “check-ins,” on top of the basic details captured in their profiles.

When a user enters a search into Google, the top results received are a combination of the most popular sites, the closest keyword match, plus companies that compete for priority. In contrast, Facebook Graph Search results can be considered automatic friend referrals made possible in part because of the pages and businesses that user’s network have “liked” or “checked-in” to at some point. The idea behind this phenomenon mirrors the premise of sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor - users are more likely to follow the recommendations for, say, “the best sushi in the area” rather than from a blind search.

Perhaps most interesting is that Facebook’s new search feature heightens competition with principal rival, Google, since any failed Graph Searches will be picked up automatically by Facebook’s partner, Bing. Will second nature Google senses continue to kick in when searching for something online, or will this be subconsciously replaced by Facebook Graph Search instead? Only time will tell as Graph Search gets released gradually to thousands of Facebook users at a time over the next few months.

Big thanks to our contributor and intern, Kelly Brockett for her assistance with this post.