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Posted by
Josie Campbell
September 19th, 2013

Facebook Graph Search… creepy or useful?

by Josie Campbell

Facebook Graph SearchFacebook Graph Search is a new semantic search engine that has been introduced by Facebook this year. It was first launched in the US in March and then in July it was made available to all users, so it has now reached the UK.

This is a platform similar to the Google search engine, but rather than using ranking algorithms like Google’s PageRank to predict relevancy, Facebook Graph Search uses semantics. These semantics search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable data-space, whether on the Web or within a closed system, then generate and produce highly relevant search results.

Luckily, unlike some of the technical jargon I have just used, Facebook Graph Search is made to be simple and user friendly.  The Graph Search feature combines the large amount of data, acquired from its over one billion users, and external data into a search engine providing user-specific search results within a user’s network of friends. Plus unlike Google, it is designed to give answers to the user’s natural language queries rather than a list of links. Another feature is that additional results will also be provided but by Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

I have recently been trying out this media platform to see what I make of the new social media search engine, below are some of the options they prompt you to search for…

-       People I may know

-       Photos of my friends

-       Music my friends like

-       Restaurants nearby

-       Games my friends play

-       Photos I have liked

These are just really basic searches but you can go into much more detail than this, such as searching for photos your friends have liked, or friends of friends, even tagged photos of people who are not friends with you. You can practically search for photos of anyone around the world who of course is also a member of a social media site. You can make searches as specific as you like from searching where people have been in the world to what interests they have.

One of the searches I made was ‘Photos of me and people who live in London, United Kingdom by me’. This then gave me every photo I had taken of myself and any person in London. Another example of a search I made was ‘People who have been to France’. This then gave me a list of people around the world who have been to France, starting with people I know and may know (have friends in common with).

At first I thought this was an amazing idea, allowing us to search just like Google but throughout our Facebook networks, finding out what people are up to and checking out photos I may not have previously been able to see on a standard Facebook profile search. However, as I went on searching different things about my friends and people I may or may not know I began to find this all a bit creepy, wondering what other people could search and see about me.

This prompted me to then go on to research other’s opinions on this and how they reacted towards the privacy issues that might arise. I found that initial reactions to the launch of Graph Search included many concerns about privacy. The social media analytics company Crimson Hexagon reported that 19 percent of users discussing the launch of the feature were stating concerns about privacy. Facebook has since alluded to these concerns and emphasized that the search operates within the pre-existing privacy settings, meaning users can access only the information already available to them. The feature just makes this information easier and potentially more appealing to find.

Further related concerns about phishing and the appearance of minors in search results have also been expressed but have not yet been addressed in detail.

With this being said a big tip to trying to keep your profile as private as possible is just to keep checking your privacy settings, making sure you are only sharing information that you wish to be shared and not with the rest of the world.

Though it all seems a little creepy to me, allowing people to almost spy on each other and pull up information that they may not want and know to be shared, from a marketing perspective I can see how this tool can be extremely useful.

Graph Search is an amazing platform for the Advertising and Marketing world to find and explore their exact target audience, giving a more detailed insight into the interests of the audience and what they get up to, ultimately  helping to make  more accurate decisions with marketing tools.

This platform is also allowing Marketers to make a sort of ‘Direct’ Content Marketing, sharing media and publishing content directly to those it will attract, therefore acquiring the right customers through their own interests.

From Blog post ideas to the themes for an email newsletter and even fun posts for networks, Facebook Graph Search just makes it easier for companies and organisations to come across as more engaging and communicative with customers rather than just selling. This gives an idea that the customer will not become lost in the overload of an already saturated online market and other advertisements, and feel more informed on material that is ‘right for them’.

So the question still remains, is this new platform overall useful or just creepy?…

I believe Graph Search is one of those tools that is useful only if used in your favour, but if used to search personal things about you could just be found creepy. Not to mention if people thought previously they had relationship problems due to Facebook, imagine the destruction this new platform could cause now.

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