Facebook recently unveiled a highly anticipated new feature, Graph Search, which is similar to a traditional search engine but is intended to provide users with direct answers to specific queries rather than a list of links that include some matching keywords.
Graph Search is currently focused on helping users find information about people, photos, places and interests that can be found on Facebook.
This update isn’t specifically related to businesses, but users could use Graph Search to look for local businesses on Facebook. For example, a user could search “Italian restaurants in Manhattan my friends like” and view a list of relevant businesses that fit that criteria.
Users also have the ability to filter search results on the right side of the page. So if a search is place related, a map showing search result locations will appear, as shown in the photo above, and users will have the ability to change the region or business category as they choose. The photo also shows what the search page looks like, including a photo, friends that have liked or been to the locations listed, and some general business information.
Search results are limited to things users can already see on Facebook, such as things that friends have Liked publicly. But any business that has a Facebook presence can appear in relevant search results since that is something that can be seen by any Facebook user.
Facebook’s Sponsored Result advertising product will also be present in Graph Search, but as of now no new advertising options have been introduced to go along with this new feature.
Another way this feature could potentially impact businesses on Facebook is through new targeting information. When users search items using Graph Search, that gives Facebook even more insights into their interests and preferences, and so businesses that advertise on the site could potentially benefit from that knowledge down the line if Facebook does decide to use that information to influence advertising options.
When users submit a query that doesn’t fit into the categories Facebook has indexed, users will see a search results page powered by Bing. It’s not likely that many will use Graph Search as a typical search engine like this, since that isn’t its intention, but the feature simply allows for broader use of the tool.
Graph Search is currently being rolled out in limited beta and will likely continue to be updated with new features and information.