What Local Search Looks Like in Facebook’s New Graph Search

Filed in Local Search, Social Media by Matt McGee on January 16, 2013 6 Comments

Facebook announced a substantial upgrade to its search function on Tuesday called Facebook Graph Search. (An awful name, by the way. Wow.)

It’s not search in the way that we search Google or Bing for info that’s somewhere out there on the web; this is Facebook-centric search for information that’s inside Facebook’s walls. It’s search for content that’s on Facebook, with results weighted based on Facebook signals such as friend connections, likes, check-ins and so forth.

The new search is on a very slow rollout now but I’ve been fortunate to have access to it for the past few hours. So far, I think local search is one of the most compelling and potentially useful aspects of Facebook Graph Search — which is good since active local Pages were up 40 percent in 2012.

Since most folks don’t have access to it yet, I thought I’d share some screenshots of a few different local search types/results below.

Local Graph Search On Facebook

Restaurants nearby

This first one is “restaurants nearby,” which is one of the default search suggestions when you start using Facebook Graph Search.

restaurants-nearby

You can click for the full-size version. I’ve put a couple red arrows on the various filters that define the many ways you can search. I could limit my search to just Italian restaurants … or just restaurants that were “liked” by friends … or just by family members … or restaurants that were visited by a specific friend … or by any friend … etc. … etc. … you get the point.

There are a lot of ways to slice into a local search. It’s very much like the search filters that Foursquare added last year.

Italian restaurants in Seattle that my friends have visited

A much more detailed search here using several filters — restaurant category, location, and that friends have visited. Again, click for the big size.

sea-restaurants-friends-visit

Hotels near Maui liked by Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is one of my Facebook friends and runs a fantastic Hawaii travel advice site called GoVisitHawaii.com. My wife and I used it religiously when we were planning the two Maui trips we’ve taken.

This search shows hotels near (on) Maui that Sheila has “liked.” If she likes these places, it’s a guarantee that they’re good.

hotels-maui-sheila

Built-In Local Search Filters

You can type just about anything you want into the search space at the top of the page to create your search, and then many of the filters show up on the right side of the search results. Here’s what the Place / Restaurant filters look like side-by-side.

facebok-search-filters

Did you notice? Several business/place types aren’t available in the default “Place Type” dropdown — doctors, hospitals, lawyers, golf courses, churches and countless others aren’t there. Those are only available if you search at the top of the page first. Then, after you do, the place type shows up in the dropdown on the right.

churches-richland

Churches is there because I just searched for them. But Facebook doesn’t remember that; if I close the browser window, my next search goes back to just the default list of Place Types.

Final Thoughts

It’s really tough to cast judgement on something that’s so new and very much a work-in-progress. As Danny Sullivan pointed out on Search Engine Land, this kind of search will work better the more friends you have, connections and Facebook activities you do (i.e., liking Pages, checking-in, etc.). Last year, I cut down my friend list and un-liked a couple dozen Pages … so this kind of search won’t be as valuable to me, perhaps, as it would to another user.

Still, I do think that the local search/recommendation aspect has a chance to offer some real value.

What do you think of it? Comments are open.

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Kristine Schachinger says:

    It looks quite cumbersome – why would I go through all those drill downs when i can free search on Google or Bing? I can see the occasion where a friend might have suggested a restaurant and I remember they went there last Wednesday, but not the name, though I could find that answer quicker on Foursquare than I can here.

    Though let’s say they only use FB check-in, so sure that might be helpful, but in most towns there are just not enough options to denote the work this takes ie there are only X options, in my town I already know where my friends go because we talk offline.

    So for trips, sure, maybe where the places are unknown. Though I would go to Yelp, Tripadvisor or Google and find a place with 1000 reviews over a few friends and local maybe, though this drill down process means I would rather just Google/Bing freetext search.

    So I think the interface is too cumbersome and the data you get will be very use case specific. Will it get used? Sure. A lot at first because it is new, but I am going to gather people will (in the majority) just go back to old discovery techniques because you really don’t gain much and it is a lot of work it appears. Though in practice it might seem totally different.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Hmmm. I didn’t find it cumbersome, Kristine. It was actually kind of fun seeing what combinations I could come up with via all the dropdown filters. But yes, that novelty aspect would surely go away after a while. :-)

      In any case, you don’t have to use the dropdowns. You can just type whatever filtering you want in the search box — and I suspect the free typing allows for more filtering options than you can choose from via the dropdowns, but I’m not positive on that.

      The answer to your first question (“why would I go through all those drill downs when i can free search on Google or Bing?”) may be that you wouldn’t, because your friends may also be active in using Google+ and clicking +1 on business pages there, etc., so you’ll still get friend recommendations that way. But we’re not the average user, and there’s an enormous percentage of the US population that can probably only get this kind of “connected search” via Facebook. (My wife would be a good example of one such person.)

  2. Anya says:

    I am actually pretty excited for this feature. I spend a lot of time using social media for research, and the fact that this new feature lets Facebook users search in real time for information based on its association with other people I think could be a positive for users (and even potentially brands) finding out what people are interested in, where they shop, eat, etc.

    The cool thing about this, to me, is that when people use search features, there is the potential to discover new things. While I am more or less looking at this from a business perspective, I can see using this feature and finding new businesses to connect with, that I may have missed otherwise. This could really prove useful and help small businesses tailor their message better to suit their fans interest.

    Thank you for showing us the behind the scenes look!

  3. Sheila Beal says:

    Hey, thanks for the shout out! :-)

  4. Saad Fazil says:

    Personally, I am unimpressed so far with the Graph Search (wrote a quick piece here http://www.theitvale.com/2013/01/facebook-graph-search-fails-to-impress.html). But more importantly for Places, FB Place simply do not have enough interesting content yet. Look at Craige Main, and rather than reading dis reviews, you will notice a bunch of general comments, lots of posts by the business itself (and comments from fans), big pictures representing marketing campaigns, and so on. In other words, Places look like most other business Pages, thus rendering them not nearly as relevant as a place on Yelp for example (where I get to see what I need: menu, opening hours, reviews, and not much noise).

    Matt, what do you think?

  5. Amit Wadhwa says:

    I have been reading a lot about this Graph search in the last couple of days but I am not sure if I like the concept or not. I have used Trip Advisor and used peoples opinions etc and that is good so from that perspective this is a great tool.

    The issue I have is centred around privacy – I have certain aspects of my profile hidden from a lot of Facebook users because I dont want them to know what I have been upto – the questions is will my privacy settings be taken into account when the FB search engine is looking for Italian Restaurants in Dublin for an acquaintance that I dont share my profile details with?

    Any answers on that one? I know that the restaurant example if a little bit out there but there are things people could search for that I dont wnat them knowing?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *