Watch out, Yelp and Foursquare. Facebook has just unveiled the Facebook Graph Search. And it’s about to make the world’s most popular social network a better place to find and discover local businesses.
Graph Search, announced at a press event in Facebook’s California headquarters, is a new social search tool designed to enable Facebook users to mine their social connections in order to find specific people, interests, photos, and places.
(Check out: “Foursquare Lets Biz Owners Add Events to their Listings”)
All users have to do is type simple, specific phrases like “people who like soccer and are from my hometown,” “my friends who work at Facebook,” “photos my friends took in New York,” or “restaurants my friends like” – and Facebook Graph Search will display unique results (complete with photos) for the given query. These results are based on everything – posts, likes, tags, check-ins, photos, ratings, reviews, etc. – shared with the user on Facebook.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said instead of taking users to links, “Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and give you the answer.”
With Facebook’s new tool, users can now also explore friends’ interests, check-ins and places they’ve been (and/or rated and reviewed) to get recommendations – on where to go, where to stay, where to eat, etc.
The results can be as wide or as narrow as users like: in Facebook’s recent Graph Search demo, a company spokesperson did a search for “restaurants liked by my friends in San Francisco by my friends from India.” Similarly, searches can be performed for “restaurants in Paris liked by French Culinary Institute graduates” or “bars in Buenos Aires liked by people who live in Buenos Aires.”
What does this mean for businesses?
Whatever users type, they’re likely to get very personalized recommendations. And very powerful ones, too: after all, according to a recent Street Fight study, people first consult their friends and their friends’ online reviews before visiting local businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars, and the like. Add to that the fact that Facebook is the website where people spend the most time on the Internet.
For local business owners, Facebook Graph Search represents a new opportunity to mine info from Facebook, and to leverage a rich, social-oriented source of data – for purposes of marketing, advertising, online reputation management, ratings and review monitoring, and certainly research.
On Graph Search, according to AdAge, “model queries (range) from the whimsical to practical searches for restaurants, a potential threat to tech companies such as Foursquare and Yelp whose ad models depend on location-based data.”
The new social search tool also gives local business owners a new platform for connecting with existing and potential customers. That’s why USA Today is already advising business owners with Facebook Pages to optimize these pages. “The more accurate information you put on Facebook,” wrote Emil Protalinkski, “the more likely your Page will show up in a search.”