It's been several months since Facebook introduced Graph Search, but you may be wondering what it's good for. The short answer: a lot of things! Here are some clever ways to make use of Graph Search if you already have it, and some reasons to sign up to get it if you don't have it already.
Facebook Graph Search has been slowly rolling out to the users that signed up for it way back in January, when it was initially unveiled. Some of us at Lifehacker HQ have had it for a while, but some of us have only recently gotten our hands on it, so we started thinking about some ways you could make the most of it. If you don't have it already, you can read more about it and sign up here. Once you have it, here are a few creative things you can do with it:
Add Interesting Places (and People) to Your Holiday Plan
If you're planning a trip and need suggestions on places to visit or restaurants to try, usually your friends who live in a given city are great people to ask for advice. With Graph Search, you may not even have to ask them -- unless you're looking for friends or people who live in that town to hang out with. Here are a couple of searches you can do to help charge up your itinerary with interesting spots, tasty eateries, and people who may be willing to visit them with you:
- Restaurants in [City Name] my friends like. This one will show you all of the restaurants (and their Facebook pages) that your friends -- whether they live in the town or not -- have liked. Great for finding spots your friends enjoyed enough to actually like on Facebook, and places that only the locals know about (especially if you stumble on a restaurant page with only a handful of likes).
- Restaurants nearby my friends have liked. This one shows you places near you, so you don't even have to fill in the city. Perfect if you're out in the middle of nowhere or you're looking for something to eat close by.
- Restaurants in [City Name] liked by people who live in [City Name]. Want to really eat like a local? Visit the places the locals love. Sure, some popular places will float to the top, but you'll get a better look at some of the highly rated restaurants that people who actually live in that town enjoy.
- Places in [City Name] my friends like. Looking for a museum to visit, an art gallery or a concert hall? Maybe another tourist attraction or memorial worth your time when you're in town? This search will give them to you.
- My friends who live in [City Name]. In case you're not sure which of your friends lives where you're planning to visit, this will give you a full list. You never know, you may find someone you've been out of touch with that you'll want to hang out with again.
- My friends of friends who live in [City Name]. Interested in meeting new people? This one's a bit trickier because it's always kind of awkward to say "Hey, I'm a friend of Matt's! I'm going to be in Perth next week. Want to grab a drink?" Even so, if you're outgoing enough, it's a great way to make new friends.
Don't hesitate to mix and match these or add some qualifiers to narrow your results. Use the "Refine This Search" box on the right to tweak the selections -- you can even narrow by cuisine type or who of your friends have actually visited the place. Similarly, if you're vegetarian, try "Vegetarian & vegan restaurants in [city name] that my friends have liked". You could also take out the "that my friends have liked" for more suggestions.
Catch Up With Friends Doing Things You'll Actually Enjoy
Even if you're not planning to leave home, Graph Search can help you find some company for the next concert, movie or other social event you would like to go to. After all, Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with friends -- why not use it to actually bring those friendships back into the physical world? Try these searches before you throw up your hands, because no one wants to see that artsy flick with you or go to that concert you have two tickets for:
- My friends who like [Band/Artist Name]. You'll never go to a concert alone again.
- My friends who like [Actor/Director/Movie Title]. If your best friend or partner has terrible taste in movies and simply refuses to go with you to the latest Nicolas Cage flick, this search will find you friends a bit more willing.
- My friends who like [Object (Wine, Beer, Barbecue, etc)]. If you'd really like to try a nearby restaurant, but it's one of those places better enjoyed with friends, this search will help you find some people to get together with and go. Similarly, if there's a local wine festival, beer festival, chilli cookoff or BBQ battle, a little creative searching will help you find a posse to take with you so you all have a good time.
Discover New Books and Music Based on What Your Friends Enjoy
Another great use for Graph Search is to discover new books, music and movies based on what your friends like. I know, I can hear you now: "But my friends have terrible taste in music/movies/books!" Well, if you craft your search properly, you'll be able to weed out the fluff and get to the good recommendations. Here are some examples:
- Bands my friends who like [X Type of Music] like. This is a narrower version of the "Bands my friends like", which can turn up a whole world of unusual suggestions. Try this one instead, and you can narrow down to a specific genre at least -- you'll still get bands that don't fit the genre, but at least friends who actually like what you like are the ones whose opinions are counted here. Only try "Bands my friends like" if you're really desperate for suggestions -- you'll get a lot of suggestions, but not all of them will be useful.
- Books my friends like. I'm a bit more confident with this one, because good book recommendations are always tricky to come by, and if a friend liked a book enough to add it to their profile, they may have other great book suggestions. Again, you can narrow this down a bit by adding a book to the mix that you want in common with them, like "Books my friends who like [X Book or Y Author] like."
- Movies liked by people who like [Movie Title]. This one is universal, but it'll give you a list of movies that may be in the same vein as the one you enjoyed. For example, if you loved The Avengers, Graph Search says you'll probably also love The Wolverine, The Dark Knight Rises and The Neverending Story. Interesting.
Everyone's seen the "Friends who like Nickelback" or "Friends who like Justin Beiber" gag as a way to find people to unfriend. Yes, you can use Graph Search to find friends who love music you hate, and you're free to judge them for it. Just do it quietly -- otherwise it kind of makes you the jerk for seeking them out just to shame them, doesn't it? When I search for friends who like Nickelback, one of them is a Military Leadership Instructor in the army, another is in the National Guard and just got home from deployment. I write on the internet for a living. I'm not judging them. Let people like what they like.
Build Your Professional Network and Make New Connections
Graph Search can also be a useful tool to make new professional connections. We've talked about finding people who like specific books and movies, but what about companies, or people who work at companies that you may be able to reach out to? Try these on for size:
- Friends who work at [X Company]. They may not all be in a position to get you a job, but they may be in a position to pass along your resume, let you know if something comes up that you may be a fit for, or even introduce you to someone in the company who is in a position to hire you. You never know until you ask.
- Friends of My Friends who work at [X Company]. This one is a little touchier, and you'll probably want to get the blessing of your mutual friend before you reach out, but this one could extend your network even further. Best of all, the mutual friend doesn't have to be a referral themselves; they can just let you know if it's OK to use their name when you reach out on your own. Less hassle for them than passing along a resume, and you get to make a genuine new connection -- it's a little bold, but I'll bet it's not something your everyday applicant would do.
You can add filters to this one too -- things like "Friends of My Friends who work at [X Company] in [X City] to find people nearby you may be able to ask out for coffee. The sky's the limit, and it's a great way to make connections that you wouldn't be able to make through LinkedIn.
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
Some of my favourite Graph Searches are the ones that actually remind me to reach out to old friends or take me back in time a little. For example:
- Photos from [Year] that I liked. Instant time machine. Want to look back and see what you had going on last year? This search will do it. It can be a timewaster, but it's still a lot of fun.
- Photos of [weddings/graduations/events] uploaded by my friends. The best part about this search is that it's not necessarily your friends' weddings -- it could be old photos of their parents' wedding, or one of their friends' weddings, their cousin's graduation or something else. In any event, it's fun to look through, and it's sure to make you smile.
- Photos taken in my hometown my friends have uploaded. Whether you live in your hometown now or you have moved far away, this one is definitely sure to take you down memory lane. You could take this one a step further and search "Photos of me taken in my hometown my friends uploaded" or "Photos taken in [City Name] my friends have uploaded" if you're curious what your friends have been up to when they visit your city.
- Photos of me and [X Person]. Whether it's a best friend, a friend you're out of touch with, your siblings or a relative who may have passed away, this search is a nostalgia trip. Just make sure it's not an ex, OK?
The possibilities are great for nostalgia trips or just looking for feel-good events and photos that your friends have posted. It's also a great excuse to get back in touch with old friends if you stumble on an old friend you haven't spoken to in a while. Alternatively, it can just be good story fodder for friends you're in touch with now. It's up to you.
If you're looking for more suggestions like these, check out these five searches from Banyan Branch, this hilarious list of searches at TechCrunch (some of which are a little depressing), and these suggestions at HuffPo Tech. Of course, no discussion of Facebook Graph Search is complete without mentioning Actual Facebook Graph Searches, the satirical Tumblr that revealed Graph Search's infinite potential.
Facebook can be slow at rolling out new features to users (remember Facebook's new design announced back in March and still available to virtually no one?). If you don't have Graph Search, just hold on -- you'll be able to make use of these tips soon. If you already have it though, give these a shot. You might find them useful.