By Bill Mulligan, guest blogger

Facebook’s big announcement this month was “Graph Search.” If you aren’t familiar with the product, it is a relationship-based search model that lets you search for information based on your friends’ likes, interests, habits and events.

Truthfully, this has been a long time coming. Facebook has always offered this type of search functionality, but the launch (and branding) of Graph Search has offered more powerful features for these searches than ever before. This will make searching for people, businesses and entertainment even easier than ever.

However, all the hype around the launch has put something in perspective for me. What we are seeing in the industry is a dichotomy of two different search behaviors – informational searches versus relational searches.

Relational searches draw from our social networks. They are the text-based equivalent of “recommendation” searches. We are looking for something that a friend, acquaintance, co-worker or colleague has experienced before. That something could be a someone, an event, a location, a business or (more commonly, in my life) a meal.

Informational searches are pure research. These searches are looking for data from which to develop an opinion or take an action. Informational searches might include:

  • Product details
  • Service qualifications
  • Statistics
  • Historical information

These searches do not rely solely on opinions and, in theory, should be more fact-based (yes, I realize that a company trying to sell you its products and services will skew information to its benefit).

Will relational searches ever take the place of informational searches? No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what Google is trying to accomplish with its inclusion of Google + (relational) results in search (informational) listings is spot on.

However, relational searches will certainly validate an informational search result, and vice-versa. Therefore, a law firm must manage its search presence in both environments properly. Abandoning one will ultimately lead to lost business, since a searcher will only be able to validate one type of search. This will be the equivalent of seeing out of one eye: While you see some detail, you don’t quite get the full perspective. When selecting representation, most users need the full perspective. Be sure you can provide it, no matter which kind of search someone might use.

Bill Mulligan is president of Caffeine, a full-service digital agency that specializes in business performance of digital assets. You can email Bill at or message him on Twitter @billmulligan.