It’s probably one of the biggest upcoming developments for both Facebook users as well as search engine marketing firms. Facebook’s own knowledge graph, somewhat similar to Google’s, will give users much more intuitive search capability when using the Facebook search engine. Essentially turning it into a high functioning social search engine.

The feature hasn’t been officially released but applications for beta testing for early adopters began in December already. It’s certainly exciting but one has to wonder how much it will really change the way we use and examine social networking sites.

A New Way to Search

We all largely ignore that search bar at the top of the Facebook page, other than to find pages or people. With good reason though, as it often returns very little quality results, even when keywords match results exactly.

The knowledge graph search bar however, will work in a significantly different way. Users will be able to submit lengthy queries, rather than just short keyword strings, that can be posed as questions or a set of parameters. What’s amazing is how well Facebook understands these queries.

The queries can relate to friends, past content, likes and interests, geographic locations and the Facebook network as a whole.

Explore Content Fully

Clicking on the bar will cause a drop down menu that suggests some queries such as “Restaurants nearby” or “Photos I have liked”. You can get more creative than this however. For instance, you could type “Photos of me in Cape Town” or even further “Photos of me in Cape Town with John Doe that I commented on.”

The timeline is handy at building a linear idea of your life and time on Facebook but this will give you the ability to fully explore every activity you’ve ever performed on the site in a way that would have been impractical with normal Facebook browsing.

Finding the Right People in the Right Context

The Facebook Knowledge Graph will also open up a whole new dimension of finding people and places on the network, both contextually and geographically. Users will be able to search for people and public pages based a range of combined variables including:

* Locations
* Pages they like
* Personal details –such as their place of work or the University they attended

So for example you could set a search parameter of: “people who like crosswords and cycling who live in my area and went to my old high school” Although, don’t expect that many results.

How Will it Compete?

Many people saw this new feature as an incredibly late answer to the Google social search function on their G+ network, which allowed users to search through keywords in social content.

But as one can tell from the above, it looks to completely circumvent competing with Google at all. Rather it will be competing with the likes of Yelp and Foursquare who, while having a dominant market presence, are easier to contend with than Google. Although it will have Bing integration for unrecognised search terms but this is likely just to make up for any shortcoming in Facebook’s Knowledge Graph.

It’s still a new feature and even Facebook admit that there will be kinks to work out in the coming months of beta testing, but should it function half as well as it claims it will, it could present some incredibly interesting opportunities for businesses and marketing analysts.