Facebook Graph Search: Behind The Scenes

Nancy Lambert

One week after the rollout of Facebook’s new graph search began, many of those who have access to it are still not sure how to approach it effectively as a social media marketing tool. Now a new post by developer Ashoat Tevosyan has clarified a few points and has gone some way towards explaining why the system took a year to develop.

Tevosyan has identified two important facets of the search process. First, queries are adapted as soon as they are made in order to target them more precisely at posts the user is likely to want. Second, results are dynamically scored using over 100 factors based on features within the retrieved posts, which are combined with an established ranking system to produce the ordered results the user sees.

Because Facebook handles over one billion posts a day, its archive contains over one trillion posts, taking up about 700 terabytes – 17 times the size of Amazon’s database – and it therefore requires intricate and very carefully coded filtering to produce useful results in a reasonable period of time. The parameters used for scoring should be able to be edited without the whole structure of the code needing to be revised so that they can be updated to take account of changing user behaviors. Tevosyan says that Facebook is continuing to refine the process to improve the user experience.

This gives marketers two strategies to pursue. The first is to figure out the underlying rules of query adjustment to create content that is likely to fit exactly with what searches in a particular area end up as. A good way to approach this is to look at popular queries on sites such as Google, try them out on Facebook with slight adjustments, and see what comes back. Secondly, there is the question of the ranking factors that Facebook is using. Again, these are likely to have similarities to those used by other large-scale search systems with the caveat that they will be geared to social content and are likely to prioritize posts made by users’ friends or in groups they have joined or pages they follow. While this limits the options for business pages, individuals who post about their businesses from time to time in their personal accounts should be able to rank more highly.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing