Facebook recently announced a new product launching in limited beta – Graph Search. The product aims to completely restructure the current Facebook search functionality and create additional opportunities for users to discover new content and connections among their friends and within the entire Facebook platform.
While Graph Search is currently only available to a limited number of users, and Facebook has not given any indication of developing healthcare-specific functionality, it does create a number of very interesting possible opportunities for users across the healthcare spectrum.
Graph Search will become even more important if Facebook continues to leverage its influence to advocate for specific health-related causes, like it has done in the past with organ donation.
- Especially those with terminal, rare or chronic diseases, Graph Search could open new opportunities to connect with others living with the same conditions.
- Niche patient communities have become powerful channels for patients to educate themselves and others on the best way to manage their diseases, but could become less influential if patients are able to connect with others through Graph Search to meet the same needs without leaving Facebook.
- The added location function could unite people in their local area and lead to offline communities and support groups.
- For healthcare providers who manage Facebook pages, it will become increasingly important to optimize your page so that it can be properly indexed and served up to users seeking information about you.
- The promotion and collection of likes and recommendations will also become increasingly important as potential patients use graph search to seek recommendations on local providers based on the experiences of people they trust within their social network.
- While Graph Search does not address many of the regulatory limitations that keep many pharmaceutical companies from building fully interactive Facebook presences, it will be important to evaluate the impact of Graph Search to better understand any regulatory impacts of Graph Search, for both branded and unbranded pharmaceutical pages.
- Increased use of Facebook search could provide additional justification for corporate or product pages as opportunities to drive users off of Facebook to other fully controlled and fully compliant digital properties.
While it is too early to make solid predictions into Graph Search’s expected impact on healthcare, it does highlight the continued need to follow key platform changes and their impact on audience behavior, program optimization and regulatory compliance. A determining factor in the impact of Graph Search will also be how willing users will be to not only search for and trust health related information within Facebook, but their willingness to share personal health information through their profiles as they gain access to the new ways that Facebook is enabling other users to access that data.
It also highlights a bigger opportunity for Facebook and other social platforms to leverage shared social data to foster the creation of meaningful connections among disparate healthcare communities. Some of the most meaningful opportunities to leverage Facebook have yet to be discovered and go far beyond creative uses of pages and applications.