‘Graph paper’

Now that my kids are in middle school, with homework assignments spread across the living room each night, graph paper is a part of my life once again. I hadn’t seen much of those thin blue lines and neat square boxes in recent years (my career in public relations doesn’t seem to call for it), but it’s good to see those pads — they’re clean, orderly and take me back to my own school days. 

It’s the “social graph,” however, that’s in the news again lately, with Facebook’s recent announcement of its new “Graph Search” function. I’ve been testing the beta version of Graph Search, and it certainly has exciting potential. In the first place, the search function on Facebook has always been mysteriously hit or miss, so any improvements there would be welcome. Facebook isn’t looking to replicate Google, though. Facebook is looking to enhance the ability to search across the social graph — namely, your friends or friends of friends.

You might search (as I did) for “hotels my friends like,” and you’ll get a list of hotel pages your friends have liked on Facebook. You can narrow your search to “hotels in Boston that my friends like.” You can expand back outward a bit by modifying the terms to “hotels in Boston that friends of my friends like” (The Colonnade, Fairmont Copley Plaza and InterContinental Boston ranked 1-3, in case you’re curious).

This new search feature enhances the value of individual page likes to a hotel or hotel brand since likes are now more easily searched by friends of a hotel’s existing fans. Graph Search also promises some interesting developments to come. You can skip your social graph and search simply by location, such as “hotels nearby” or “hotels in New York, New York.” This is not yet possible in Facebook’s mobile app, but that step can’t be far behind. Will it be long before Facebook “Offers” and Graph Search begin to work in tandem?

Early blog commentary on Graph Search has raised privacy concerns. For although a person’s “likes” have theoretically been public already, the new search function enhances the chances that others will take a closer look. A few bloggers have even recommended a quick round of “unliking” any eyebrow-raising likes left on your profile from days or years past.

That issue aside, the potential is there for real advances in personalized search. Hotel brands and their agencies will be keeping a close eye on developments. I’ll even be taking notes on some scrap graph paper, as my kids’ homework assignments wrap up.

If you’re testing the new Graph Search and have initial reactions, let me know what you think.