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Facebook Finally Reveals How Graph Search Works (& Doesn’t Work)

Facebook Finally Reveals How Graph Search Works (& Doesn’t Work) Blog Feature

Katie Pritchard

Director of Client Services, 8+ Years of Client-Facing Project Management & Digital Marketing Expertise

December 5th, 2018 min read

For a while now, marketers have been wondering what affected Facebook’s search results.

There’s been speculation that searches outside of the site (done on Google or other search platforms) affected what showed up based on user cookie tracking info.

From that speculation, we assumed we could probably skirt by with Facebook engagement, at times, hoping that relevant searches done outside of Facebook would deliver us to the right people in search.

However, this week, Facebook officially announced that outside behavior has no effect on its search results.

While this is great for privacy (a big hurdle for Facebook these days) it leaves us wondering, what does affect the platforms search results?

This announcement comes after a tough year for digital privacy for the social media giant.

So, it’s clear that both for the betterment of search results and for the privacy of its users, the decision to announce how search results are ranked and displayed was strategic.

Overall, Facebook aims to provide the most relevant information within their platform from search.

But what is relevant to you according to Facebook?  To put it simply, what your friends do and what posts you engage with, but let’s dive a little deeper.

How Facebook’s Search Works

In a recent post from a product manager from Facebook, they uncover what influences search results within the platform.

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 3.35.55 PM


“While search results are influenced by people’s activity on Facebook, they’re not influenced by searches done off of Facebook,” Yee Lee revealed.

In addition, results are mostly ranked by your personal activity, and the activity of the general Facebook community.

Facebook states, “...Facebook activity that may influence your search results includes what your friends share with you, Pages you follow, Groups you’ve joined, events you’ve liked or followed, things you’ve interacted with in your News Feed, information you’ve listed on your profile, places where you’ve been tagged, and previous searches you’ve done.”

They go on to say, “Your Facebook search results are also based on general Facebook community activity, including the popularity of whatever you’re searching for and how recently it was posted.”

Overall, Facebook’s goal is to provide a platform that’s fun, interesting, keeps people connected, and maintains a safe environment for it’s users (something they’re making sure everyone knows about after this year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.)

So, that’s the skinny of how Facebook’s search works - but why is this announcement going to give marketers some focus?

Why This Announcement Gives Marketers More Focus

If anything, this announcement gives marketers focus because it confirms what some of us probably don’t want to hear; that you have to be active on Facebook to show up in any search results.

Your success elsewhere will not impact your success on Facebook (in terms of search results.)

If you know your ideal buyers are on Facebook but you’ve been laissez faire with your engagement strategy, it’s time to get serious.

Especially with the new year coming, now is the time for marketers to reconsider and focus in on Facebook strategies.

Taken from the same Facebook article - “Your Facebook search results are also based on general Facebook community activity, including the popularity of whatever you’re searching for and how recently it was posted.”

We can take away that that means recency of posts has a big factor on showing up at the top of results.

If recency and engagement are essential, then frequency of posts and engagement metrics should be something that you’re tracking and setting goals around.

Also, of course, Facebook Ads and boosting posts can gain engagement and interactions, so it wouldn’t hurt to explore this opportunity within your overall strategy as well.

Key Takeaway

Like it or not, Facebook’s search is much more siloed than you think. Without other announcements, we can assume other social platforms do / will have a similar approach, evaluating only activity within their realm when delivering results to you.

Before we enter 2019, it’ll be essential to figure out your brand’s standing and approach to Facebook and consider how it can adjust its strategy to better achieve results.

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