Like is the New Link: Why Facebook's Graph Search Will be a Game Changer

Two years ago, I wrote in Likeable Social Media that "Like is the new link." Facebook, I argued, was reorganizing the Internet around likes. Whereas Google had previously organized the web around links and information, Facebook was adding a social layer to the web. I envisioned a world in which the like became more important than the link.

Today, thanks to over one billion users and its new Graph search, that world is arriving. Sure, graph search is poorly named. (It sounds like it was named by engineering nerds, not my marketers from one of the world's largest brands.) More important, graph search's current functionality is currently in beta and will only work in certain use cases, and privacy issues will surely need to be sorted out. It's just the beginning.

But imagine the potential - not as marketer, but as a consumer. You wake up with a toothache and you need a new dentist. Would you rather find him using random coupons from Valpak, using a Google search to find a digitally savvy but also-random dentist, or using Facebook search to find a dentist your own friends like and trust?

If you're looking for a real estate agent to help buy or sell your house, would you rather check the yellow pages, or find an agent your Facebook friends or their friends like and trust?

If you're looking for a stroller for your new toddler, would you rather shop from a catalog or from mom friends on Facebook? Trying a new healthy cereal - would you rather respond to the best TV commercial or see what your friends already like? Shopping for a car - would you find a dealer from a radio ad, or one your friends who have recently bought cars "liked" on Facebook?

We know that 92% of consumers trust word of mouth recommendations, far more than any form of advertising. But while recommendations have been around for years, on sites like Amazon and Yelp and Trip Advisor - now, those recommendations are coming on Facebook - from your friends that you know and trust. For years, marketers and business people have struggled with the value of their Facebook likes. They've asked questions about what it all means, and how important it is to generate likes rather than clicks or links or Google Search rank. Beginning this year, those questions will be answered.

Sure, a like is not nearly as valuable as a review, and a like from a close friend or family member is a lot more valuable than a like from that guy you went to high school with and haven't heard from since. But a like from someone you know is an implicit endorsement of sorts, more valuable to marketers than an advertisement without social proof. Soon enough, people will be saying, Like is the new link.

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn.