Early last week, Facebook started to roll out its new Graph Search product, which amongst other things, is designed to “help you find people who share your interests”.
Now that I’ve had a week or so to tinker around with it, I’ve got some early thoughts.
First off, I don’t immediately see a giant opportunity for brands. Not yet. The idea (at least as it’s been pontificated about) is that Facebook has had reams of social connection data, but has lacked intent - which Google has in spades. So an improved natural search, means intent, and that is a win for Facebook. Let us all rejoice.
What remains to be seen though, is how users will interact with this search box, and if this behavior will open up future opportunities. I’m sure it will, but I just don’t see it quite yet. Besides, savvy marketers have had access to lots (not all, but lots) of this data through Facebook’s API for a while now, and it’s not clear to me that search has provided anything more to us advertising types, beyond a front-end UX and wrapper for the common folk to access.
My second thought, is that while Google may not become instantly marginalized by Graph Search, another industry does. The line between online dating sites like Match.com and Facebook has always been a thin one, and Graph Search may have just erased it altogether.
I’ve used sites like Match.com. I’ve even paid to use them. The value they’ve historically provided against Facebook, was that I could search on a ton of quirky criteria, and find single women, in a particular area, of a particular age, that liked a particular set of things that I liked too. So if I wanted to hone in on single 30-somethings in Somerville that I didn’t know already, that like the Celtics, and then see some photos and send them a message, Match was my best bet. And I was happy to toss them $19.95/month for the privilege.
With Graph Search however, I can now do the same exact style of searching, right on Facebook. Including the messaging of strangers part, which is free, unless I want to pony up a dollar to ensure delivery to the said stranger’s inbox.
Oh, and by the way…EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS ON FACEBOOK. So whereas Match (and other dating sites) will only have inventory consisting of those men or women comfortable enough to have overcome the stigma that is online dating, Facebook doesn’t have that problem. They have scale, in that more or less everyone with a face is on the platform.
So whether or not Facebook’s search product ever truly comes to compete with that of Google, who knows. But paid dating sites should start really re-thinking their model, because the game just changed in a big way.