What does Facebook’s new “Graph Search” mean for social commerce, the integration of e-commerce with social media?

Looking beyond the obvious – Facebook search ads linking to e-commerce sites (search results from looking for a friend of a friend who’s an interior designer in Miami would include search ads for One Kings Lane and local decorators…), there is an opportunity for Facebook – or more likely one of Facebook Developer partners – to disrupt and reinvent the $5bn+ Group Buying market.

Group Buying has it’s roots in the Chinese social shopping tradition of Tuangou, where people search for other people who want to buy similar things and then hatch a plan together, which usually entails descending, en masse, on some poor unsuspecting retailer and demanding a substantial discount for buying together in bulk. This Tuangou group buying is very popular in Asia, and usually works for the consumer and the seller (better sell 20 units at 10% profit, than 1 or 2 at 40%); it’s people-powered collaborative commerce.

Of course, much of the people-powered nature of Tuangou team/group buying got lost when Groupon and its ilk imported the tradition online and into the West, but Facebook – with Graph Search – has the opportunity to harness successful and social essence of Tuangou – and allow people to search for people looking to buy products or services online or in a particular city, and then provide a simple mechanism for them to get a bulk price from a vendor.  In reality, we think it’ll be a third party developer, not Facebook that will lead the charge here; could it be you?

So whilst the first iteration of Facebook’s ‘Graph Search’ is as uninspiring and uninspired as the branding it’s been lumbered with (really Facebook, do you think people will ever say “just Graph Search it” instead of “just Google it”?) – and could self-distruct in Beacon 2-style privacy minefield, we see real opportunity for a new generation of demand-driven social commerce to emerge from Graph Search that is disruptive, collaborative, and people-powered.