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So Social

A more powerful Facebook search

After months of a limited rollout, Facebook expanding Graph Search to all

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Tribune Newspapers

July 18, 2013

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Think about an average day on Facebook. Status updates. Tagging. Check-ins. Photos. Videos. Like this, comment on that.

Whoa. Data overload.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to search through all that data and really drill down to the things that are important to you? There is. Facebook Graph Search. Over the coming days and weeks, Facebook is rolling out Graph Search to everyone using the U.S. English version of the platform.

Initially rolled out to a limited audience in January, Graph Search is a powerful way to search on Facebook. And it's personalized, based on what people have shared with you.

So for example, if I search "Photos of Chicago," I'll see photos my friends have shared with me, along with public photos. But if my social media partner in crime Amy Guth performs the same search, her results will be different because she has different friends who have shared different content.

Photos not your thing? You could perform this search: "Restaurants nearby." Graph Search will search based on your location and return restaurants near you. But that just scratches the surface. If you want to view restaurants near you that your friends have visited, you can search "Restaurants nearby that my friends have been to" or to see restaurants your friends have clicked like on, search "Restaurants nearby that my friends like."

Graph Search allows you to talk to Facebook in a more conversational way than a traditional search on Google or Bing. And the more data the Facebook universe feeds it, the more powerful it gets.

Hmmm. Sounds like some kind of movie.

Anyhow, how will you know when you have Graph Search? You'll see a white box at the top of your Facebook page with the words "Search for people, places and things." Clicking in the box without typing a single thing returns all kinds of basic search suggestions, including "games my friends play" and "photos of my friends."

Graph Search isn't giving you access to anything new, it's just presenting it in a much easier to digest format.

Right now, Graph Search is only available on the desktop version of Facebook but the company says a mobile version is in the works. And eventually you'll be able to search specific posts and comments. That means the conversations we've had about the importance of watching what you say on Facebook have never been more important. It should be noted, though, that you are in full control of what people can see. You'll soon see a notice on your home page with a reminder recapping how to control what you share and with whom.

There are two basic ways to check your privacy settings. The first is to go to your Facebook privacy settings and select "Limit Past Posts." Note that this changes all of your posts at once, so it may or may not be for you. The other option is to go to your Activity Log, where you can adjust the audience and settings for each post separately.

I've had Graph Search since January. I don't love it, but it has definitely improved. If you're anything like me, you'll spend a solid hour trying different searches and finding out new things about your friends or businesses you frequent.

What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.