Facebook is rolling out their new Graph Search, and a media storm is taking over. As a search system, it gives access to a great deal of information that many people either didn't realize was public or didn't think would be used in this way. It's something of a wake up call for many Facebook users. It has the potential to be abused, but it also can be a great tool for businesses.
To realize how the Facebook Graph Search works, think about Facebook as if it were a massive database of personal information. Each person is an entry. Within that entry, a large amount of information about them has been collected and filed away. According to Facebook, the four main categories of information are people, photos, places and interests.
Using the Information
Graph Search works by allowing you to type in a sentence or string of keywords to find people who meet those criteria. So for example, you could search for a list of all of the doctors in your city who like the TV show House. Or you could search for every single woman who likes cats and works at Walmart. You can search for people fitting any category, liking any interest.
For a standard user, the Facebook Graph Search is a novelty with a few tertiary uses and plenty of room for abuse. For a business, it is a treasure trove of demographic information. Any business with a Facebook page relies on their fans liking them. With Graph Search, these businesses can search for all people in a given area who like their page and who fit any other description they want.
Businesses will be able to see anything about their fans that those fans post online. This could be religion, or pets, or favorite TV shows, or favorite sports or anything else the business could think to search for. It opens up a massive amount of untapped marketing potential.
Right now, Facebook Graph Search is under scrutiny because of the wealth of information it provides, much of which might not be something the users want shared. Complaining about Facebook breaching privacy is all too common, and it seems like more and more people simply don't realize the information they post is public. When this information starts being used against them, there is bound to be a backlash. Whether the utility of the search or the potential for abuse wins out remains to be seen.
Are there any other benefits do you think Facebook Graph Search could provide? Let us know in the comments below!