Facebook Graph Search: Why LinkedIn should be just as worried as Google

Catching up on the news from Tuesday about Facebook’s Graph Search, I’ve come to the conclusion that Google should be very worried. After all, Facebook Graph Search is all about personal context, and while there is enormous utility in Google’s web search, it doesn’t really give the personal context I want, despite the company’s best efforts in ramping up things like Google+ and other social contextualization efforts.

And while I’d be worried if I were Google, I’d be even more worried if I were LinkedIn. Because, let’s be honest, LinkedIn search is so awful it’s reminiscent of another age (i.e., the mid-2000s).

“But does it matter?” you ask. After all, isn’t LinkedIn’s focus very different than Facebook’s?

Yes, it is. But as recruiters increasingly use the social web to do their job, LinkedIn will see its hiring and talent unit (which accounts for over half of the company’s revenue) hit by the better contextualized social search of Facebook if it doesn’t up its game, even if Facebook’s social graph is more personal than professional. That’s because in the world of social, it’s no longer easy to cleanly separate the two worlds, and oftentimes searching a person’s personal graph is actually a better indicator of how they would perform in a professional context than the dressed-up version they’re putting forward on LinkedIn.

With LinkedIn, you basically get a fairly straightforward networked rolodex, adequate for searching by job title and experience but not much more. Sure, there are recommendations and endorsements, but I’ve always felt these are gamed to a certain degree, often as much a sign of how aggressive the user is in searching those out for themselves as much as how people actually feel about them.

If you’re still skeptical, try using LinkedIn search. If you’re a recruiter looking for a really smart person to lead mobile app development, searching “great mobile app development lead” would get first- and second-degree connections of people who have used those words to describe themselves. It could just as easily be someone who is a schoolteacher who talks about how he uses “mobile apps” in the classroom for the “development” of “smart” kids.

Like I said, it needs some work.

Like most, I have yet to actually use Facebook Graph Search, and I’m the first to admit it may actually not live up to its promise or could take things a step too far in violating our privacy, something Facebook has been known to do in the past. But if it does work as advertised, it’s definitely a sign that LinkedIn needs to improve its own search capabilities.