Of God, Google, and Graph Search

18 Jan

I stayed away three whole days, thinking i couldn’t be one more person writing about Zuckerberg’s latest, (subscribing to the view that “nothing on Facebook is as important as Zuckerberg would like us to believe it is” ) – but now that the dust has settled a bit, here it is…

A few years ago, my colleague told me about a statement in a conversation she had overheard between her then 5 year old son and his friend – “God doesn’t know everything, Google does”!

True to form, a few days ago when my 7 year old daughter asked me – which were the largest and smallest frogs in the world – i gave her the standard answer that modern day moms give their pesky kids – just “Google” it! (I was reading somewhere the other day that the “new definition of literacy is – ‘how soon you can find info’ not how much you know/ can read”. Its certainly a tenet which helped me and my partners build our business in the outsourced Research and Analytics phase)

But, to come back to how therefore does Graph Search change the landscape – Is it really a game changer? Can it become the Google Killer? A look at stock prices shows that Yelp stock went down 8%, LinkedIn and Microsoft went up, Facebook went up a trifle after having come down in the beginning, and Google – zilch! NO movement pretty much! (it did swing wildly during the press announcement)

So lets take a look at what works and what doesn’t in this “third pillar of Facebook”.

The goods:
– It makes search far more relevant – and replaces that holy grail for marketers – Word of Mouth. So, you will go to the movie your freind liked, take your child to the dentist your boss took hers to, and try out the restaurant your brother in law liked. We’ve all seen the studies that say trust is highest when recommendations come from people you know – so thats what facebook graph does – give you trustworthy recos.

It does make me think, if it replaces my calling my brother in law to ask him about his restaurant recos, then maybe its not such a great thing after all – i don’t call him enough as it is. I have to confess I even wished him happy birthday via Facebook — in an increasing digital world, i am looking for more occasions to physically connect with my friends than less! But well, relationship guilt apart, Facebook Graph will definitely give me the ability to get an aggregated look at my friends’ opinions.

– This works really well therefore for “local searches”

– It uses data already there – no one has to make a special effort – facebook has 1 billion members and 240 billion photos – this data jolly well be used for something

– As mashable pointed out, you can look at some interesting nuggets from the way search results emerge – so, People liking KFC also like Star Wars, Musicians like to play Tetris battle, and While Apple employees like David Guetta, Google employees like Pink Floyd (in the interests of fair disclosure let me mention that Google for me has always been the “best” company – they are, really like God! )

But while on this topic, I should tell you how some years ago, using — yes, none other than Google, we discovered that People who search for skin care, also search for eating — and, from the intersection of “skin care and eating” emerged some interesting categories like “Water” and “Olive Oil’ and “Tea”…

– And ofcourse, it will be good for advertisers – enabling them to target their messages even better, thus getting Facebook higher revenues

The “oh hums”

– As a lot of people have said already, “likes” which is one of the basic data pieces that facebook is using for the graph search algorithm, is a dubious one

– “Likes” can be bought as everyone knows (and Amitabh Bachchan referred to in his comment (you must forgive me a little self promotion 🙂 – atleast its based on clicks and not bought out likes 🙂 )

– More importantly, a “like” doesnt always show active endorsement/ recommendation – its is very often merely “acknowledgement”, as i’ve said before, a “lift of the eyebrow” to say yep…

– Nearly a decade of working with Social Media has taught me the unfortunate truth that most people use this medium to express extreme negative reactions – so its a “rant outlet”, not so much a praise one…add to this the fact that facebook doesn’t have a “dislike” feature…there, u are getting only one side of the picture – the prettier one.

– And finally, the flip side of the “relevance” piece – the fact that because its from my network, (social graph – btw, i really dont like the name – yes, i know its fm demographics and not “x” and “y” graphs, but come-onnnn, i’ sure there were better names) means its NOT from the world wide web, and THAT “comprehensiveness” is what i want when i go to Yelp/ Match/ Google. (The Bing partnership should help – but thats like a patch on a torn pair of jeans)

This highlights the essential difference between Google Search and Facebook Graph Search – Google approached Search from the “Outside-In” – go wide, touch the universe, and THEN personalise it (the +1s its hoping “your world” will get it – I have to admit, so far, its not been very successful with its 135 million folks on G+).
While Facebook, being who they are, approach it from the “Inside-Out” – search amongst your friends and then broaden it.

This is at the heart of the “comprehensiveness” vs “relevance” debate of Search, the “Universe” vs. “Sample” debate of Market Research – and has been captured brilliantly in the statement – “Google went from Search to Social while Facebook went from Social to Search”

So, whats the ultimate verdict? I know its too soon, but will, as Forbes says, Graph Search be Facebook’s Siri? or will Google start seeing eating away of its dominant position? Should we all move to Graph once its available, or should we stick to Google?

I think that the smart consumer will use the best of both worlds – get recos from Google for a look at what strangers/ mass/ experts say, and then go to Facebook for endorsements on what family and friends feel. After all, if you ARE the sorts who research anyways, a few seconds more clicking one more site wont make a big difference!

Having said that, the answer to the “world’s largest frog species” is – Goliath Frog; that to world’s smallest frog species is the newly discovered Paedophryne amauensis ; and guess where i found it? No surprises there — a place where God gets defeated 🙂 amen….


4 Responses to “Of God, Google, and Graph Search”

  1. KRD Pravin January 18, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Very well written Sangeeta. I was searching for Facebook Graph search review and I got the whole comparison here. No need to go anywhere!

    I agree with your points such as – Like Vs Dislikes. You have any option of “Unlike” on Facebook but that is only when you have liked something already. So Facebook does not provide the -ve side of the opinion. At the same time as you rightly said – people write on Facebook mostly for -ve opinions… things are getting convoluted.

    The other good thing is – whenever I (assuming we all do the same) search I adopt outside in approach (until now).. the google way. In inside out approach I wonder how often we would be able to stumble on new things! such as the Frog species you found out.

    Let us see how the search world shapes up!

    • joshsang January 19, 2013 at 8:07 am #

      Yes it’s going to be interesting!

  2. Arun January 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    I think both will co-exist just as you showcased through the frog example. Facebook will score more on personal opinion than Google because the personal opinion of friends might carry more weight than that of strangers (ad Google results). However, fact-based searches will happen through search engines like Google because they have the widest reach.

    Now, it is a matter of time……

    • joshsang January 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Been wondering where u are 🙂 . Yes agree – co-existence likely, question is – how much of googles share will Facebook chip off …

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