Facebook Graph Search for Business

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

As Facebook rolls out Graph Search the question is, what does this mean for business?

Well, for B2B, not much in terms of direct business but perhaps quite a lot in terms of secondary business.

The first businesses to feel the impact will be local B2C and consumer product companies.

All businesses will need to have engagement with their customers on Facebook for Facebook Graph Search to do them any favors. Business pages will need ‘friends’ and ‘likes’. The algorithm will assume greater importance to pages with more ‘likes’ and ‘friends’. So if there are two Italian restaurants in the neighborhood, the one with the most ‘likes’ will appear top in the results and the natural assumption is that the top of the list is the ‘best’.

Actually, top of the list really denotes best at engaging on Facebook, not best on other metrics that may be more important to the consumer who is searching. Just as we’ll all likely disagree with who wins some of the Oscar’s tonight the record books will record the winners as those with the most votes from the voting population, which is not the same as the ‘best’ from the consumer perspective.

All businesses will need to engage with their customers through social media in general and Facebook for their Graph Search rankings. Companies cannot simply publish their press releases to their Facebook page and present static content. Facebook looks for engagement, conversations with ‘friends’, in their rankings.

Clearly B2B connections are not created through Facebook but every company has a reputation to protect and that can come with a hefty price tag. Take one of my former employers, Transocean. The general public doesn’t know them for their technological leadership, their advanced capabilities in drilling challenging wells in the most extreme offshore environments. No. The general public knows them because of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and the seemingly endless game of blame deflection that followed.

And this is where Facebook Graph Search will become important for those companies that work in the B2B arena. Ultimately, everything ends up with a consumer. As those consumers have more access to information they are able to look deeper into the supply chains of the companies from which they are buying and inspect their web presence also. If they form a negative opinion on the supplier, they’ll then infer that negativity onto the company they are researching. The relative rating of the company they are dealing with will only be as high as that of their lowest rated supplier.

For Facebook users, Facebook Graph Search will make it easier for them to find the supply chain and examine it. New web services will arise to compliment the likes of Hoovers for business research to corral social media research into easy to find accumulations. Consumer ignorance will no longer be a useable strategy to minimize the impact of negative stories within the supply chain. Suppliers will not only have to be managed for product and/or service quality, they’ll need to be managed for social media quality also.

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

On January 15, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook Graph Search. Investors groaned and the stock lost value but these are early days and, as Facebook has grown in importance, so too will Graph Search.

Facebook Graph Search is not an indexing of the web. It’s not Google or Bing. To Facebook, ‘graph’ is the ‘map of your relationships with people and the things they care about’. Ever wondered if hitting a ‘Like’ button would come back to haunt you? You know it will!

The value of Facebook Graph Search comes from the ‘trusted’ recommendations of your ‘friends’. I put those terms in quotes because most of the people I know on Facebook openly admit to having ‘friends’ they don’t actually know. And, since they don’t know them, how high can the trust level actually be?

If you’re searching for a restaurant in Buenos Airies and you don’t have any friends there the results will be no better in quality than those on Trip Advisor or other ratings websites. They are recommendations made by people you don’t know. So you’re left to assume that the results at the top of the list represent a broader base of recommendations than those lower on the list. But they’re still recommendations from people you don’t know, so how much faith can you have in the results?

Facebook originated as a way to stay connected with a group of friends. That concept has dictated it’s architecture and imposed some limitations but as the user base has grown those limitations are being broken down. People still predominantly go to Facebook to see what family and friends are up to. So if I was planning a trip back to the UK, I could search for where my friends are currently living, search for restaurants they like and organize a mini-reunion to meet the tastes of most.

Where Facebook has been poor is finding people you don’t know. Google+ has definitely been better at this. And Google+ merges the finds from your circles into the index of the web when you search for things. But Graph Search will now enable you to discover new contacts. Say I wanted to do a photowalk in Seattle. I could search for people interested in photography in Seattle and Graph Search will return results from my friends and from public posts that mention ‘photography’ and ‘Seattle’ and allow me to build a community around my photowalk. There I can meet new people, create new relationships and expand my network of friends on Facebook.

Facebook claims to be protecting the teens on its site from creepy searches but given that anything shared publicly on Facebook or privately with the searcher will pop up in the results, that may be hit or miss. After all, it’s not as though Facebook has had rock solid privacy built in from the start. Let’s face it, when Mark Zuckerberg founded the service, he was too young to care much about privacy and likely still is. He’s a smart guy and knows that the only way to keep it private is not to mention it to anyone and most certainly not to post it to Facebook or anywhere else on the web!

Creepy searches will be pretty easy to generate even with the privacy controls. And, as I mentioned before, all those ‘Likes’ will come back to haunt you. I’ve seen examples of silly searches, such as ‘Companies that employ people that like ‘Racism”, ‘Married people who like ‘Prostitutes”, etc. all driven off ‘Likes’ people have made in the past. Who hasn’t clicked on a ‘Like’ button to something shared by a friend without actually reading the full article, context, metadata, etc. and without thinking of the future consequences of that association. Just like Nike is trying to erase it’s ‘Bullet in the Chamber’ ad campaign featuring Oscar Pistorus, these associations that seem great at the time can appear pretty dumb when viewed from an unknown future looking backwards. But at that point, it’s too late to hit the ‘delete’ button.

Because the Answers Have Changed

Becuase the answers have changed - Albert Einstein

This quote comes from a delightful story about Albert Einstein. The story is that one year when he was teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, it was time to set examinations. When Einstein handed over the exam papers to his teaching assistant, the assistant noted that it was the same paper that Einstein had set for that class the year before. The assistant queried the master, “Isn’t this the same exam you gave this class last year?”. “Yes, yes it is.” replied Einstein. Emboldened, the assistant asked, “But how can you give the same exam to this class two years in a row?” “Becuase,” Einstein replied, “the answers have changed”.

Last Wednesday I was invited to sit on a panel at the HMG Strategy 2013 Houston CIO Executive leadership Summit. The theme of this summit was, ‘The Epic Revolution: Leading, innovating and Transforming in a Connected World’ and my panel was discussing ‘The New Enterprise Architecture’. This theme parallels what Gartner terms ‘The Nexus of Forces’ – the social commons, mobile communications, cloud computing and information – that is increasingly challenging existing business models and processes and introducing new competitors.

At one point during the Q&A with the audience, a question came from the floor concerning why we all seem to be reinventing the wheel all the time. That was when Einstein’s line, ‘Because the Answers Have Changed.” flashed into my mind.

When we look at the Nexus of Forces, they are at one level simply new answers to age old questions. How can we collaborate across distances? How can we engage others in our conversation? How can we seek out new customers and retain existing customers? How can we reduce the fixed cost of IT?

Social, cloud, mobile, information (big data) are just the new answers to these old questions. But what is interesting is that these new answers are coming from new entrants to the business. The established names of IT are playing catchup here, not leading the way. Their inertia and high fixed costs of doing business leave them at a great disadvantage to new entrants, cloud based with low fixed costs and highly flexible and scalable business models. For the established enterprise, the element of risk rushes to the forefront as they ponder the question, “What have we go to lose?”, while the new entrant ponders the opposite question, “What do we have to gain?”.

The phrasing of these two questions puts the established business into a defensive position while the new entrant is in an offensive position. This informs both their strategies but as with the French and the construction of the Maginot Line between World War I and World War II, when an established business informs its defensive strategy with the old answers, new entrants are able to Blitzkrieg around those defenses using the new answers.

So the net time you’re asked, “Why do we have to do social within the enterprise? Why do we have to go to the cloud? Why do we need to adopt mobile? What’s all this big data about?” now you know.

It’s because The Answers Have Changed!