Can Facebook Graph Search Dominate Google Local?

by Jason Gillikin on February 21, 2013

Have you heard about Facebook Graph Search?  It’s the new search bar on Facebook that (they hope) will change the way you search, ideally reducing the need to use Google.  Currently Graph Search is in beta, and Facebook is rolling it out to more and more users every day.  I got a chance to look at it earlier this week, so it’s time for a review and to figure out if it will make a difference.  What I mean is, will Facebook Graph Search take away any search engine market share at all from Google?  After all, Big G is pretty dominant these days, with almost 70% of the market.  But Facebook users spend a lot of time on the social media site, so will the new Graph Search mean they don’t have to go to Google to find what they want?  Or will Facebook be for social and Google be for search (sorry Google Plus but you know it’s true) and that’s that, forever and ever (or for the next 5 years or so)?

So I decided to check out Facebook Search and compare it to what I would get from Google, to see if I would ever break my bad habit of always using Google for everything.

The first search comparison is for “cell phone cases”.  When I start typing that into the Facebook Graph Search, here’s what I get:

cell phone case fbHmmm, that’s not exactly what I’m looking for at all.  Facebook sort of has it right with “mobile phone shops”, but to assume that I want to know what cell phone shops that Casey has been to or that I’d be looking for a cell phone in Italy?  I’m not even Facebook friends with Casey, so I’d say Facebook is way off on this one.  However, if I click on “cell phone cases” web search (the 5th line down in the image above), that takes me to a search powered by Bing, and here’s what that looks like:

cell phone case bing fb

So there we go, it’s easy enough to get me to a search for a cell phone case, and I can proceed from there.  If I were to do a search on Google for “cell phone case”, I’d get very similar results:

cell phone case google

So would I rather use Facebook/Bing over Google in this case?  The results are pretty much the same, but since I’m already programmed to use Google, probably not.

What about another non-local example?  I’m looking for a company that can make mugs with logos, so I might type in “custom mugs” into a search.  When I do this with Facebook, here’s what I get:

custom mugs fb

This Custom Mugs page is some probably defunct business that set up a personal page instead of a business page.  That’s not what I’m looking for at all, and I’d probably start to get annoyed at this point.  But I could always go back and click on the “web search” part of Facebook Graph Search and get similar results to Google with the Bing-powered results.  However, if I keep getting weird results like the Custom Mugs page above, I might give up and go back to what I know, the G monster.

So let’s try one more search, this time for a local query.  When my wife and I are lucky enough to find time (and a babysitter) to go out to eat, we inevitably wonder where we should go.  So we’ll usually do a search on Google and scroll through the local listings trying to find ideas.  Or sometimes my wife will post a message on Facebook asking her friends where a delicious new place to eat is.  If we were to do a search on Google, here’s what it would look like:

restaurants google

Not bad, and I can see a bunch of reviews too if I click into the restaurants’ G+ Local Pages.  But with Facebook Graph search, when searching for restaurants, I can find out a lot more now.

Look at some of the different results I can search by.  Pretty cool stuff here.  If I click on the first link, “Restaurants in Raleigh North Carolina my friends have been to”, here’s what I get:

So I can easily see which of my friends have been where.  And if I was interested in a place, I could contact those friends.  “Hey Kailey, we’re thinking about going to Tobacco Road, what did you think of that place?”.  Real, honest responses from people you trust instead of…well, who knows exactly what you’re getting from Google reviews?

This is something I would absolutely use.  I can see this being useful for anything local – electricians, tire places, dentists, bars, you name it.  Anything local, I’m checking Facebook first so I can ask people I actually know.

Will others follow suit?  That remains to be seen, but Facebook definitely has a chance here.  Everyone is on Facebook already, and I always see friends asking for suggestions for doctors, lawyers, restaurants, etc.  So on a local level (at least for restaurants), this is a better way to search.  And it just started, so who knows what’s next with this.

For businesses, this means if you’re not on Facebook already, it’s time to get with the program.  Even if you don’t like it or understand it, your competitors are taking advantage of prospects finding them.  And if you already have a page but you’re not exactly active, it’s time to start posting again.  If you don’t have time, we can help.

There are a lot of bugs that still need to be worked out as we can see with the non-local searches.  But given that it’s still in beta, Facebook is on to something here (and Bing is coming along for the ride).  And maybe, just maybe, a company can finally chip into Google’s market share and we can have a somewhat competitive market again.

So what do you think of Facebook Graph Search?  Will you use it?


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