This morning Facebook held a press conference. For days tech journalists prophesied exactly what Mark Zuckerberg would be unveiling from the multi-billion dollar social network. Some thought that it could be a redesign of the Facebook mobile app, others thought that there would be the announcement of a Facebook phone and still others thought that they would be charging to message people. All of them were wrong. It was something much, much bigger.

A new search tool.

Wait. Don’t go. I’m serious. This is actually pretty big. Let me explain why.

We all like things. We all like to tell our friends that we’ve liked things. In fact, thanks to Facebook, we can like almost everything on the web. Tens of millions of websites have now implemented the ‘like’ button in just the last few years. Businesses are now creating Facebook pages rather than websites. They ask their customers to ‘like’ them on the social networking site and in exchange smart businesses offer engaging content and discounts to maintain a good relationship.

But what does this all have to do with Facebook’s new search tool? It was something that Lars Rasmussen mentioned in the video about how they developed the new Graph Search

I had a toothache the other day and I’m relatively new to the area so I didn’t have a dentist and looking up ‘dentists’ that my friends liked was really awesome because I knew that I was going to go to someone who knew what they were doing…which he did.

— Lars Rasmussen

Nestled amongst a video about finding photos from friends and seeing how much fun everyone is having in their lives was this little nugget of truth. I have spoken before about the importance of friends recommendations when choosing a new restaurant, movie, service or brand. It’s crucial simply because it helps a person who is on the fence about something make up their mind. It provides the brand a trustworthy ally, nay spokesperson, to help create this new customer. In fact customers are 71% more likely to go with a brand that has been recommended by a friend.

As this video from The Verge shows the new Facebook Graph Search goes further than simply ‘liking’ something. It gives the user the ability to search not just for restaurants nearby but to categorize them in terms of which have been ‘liked’ by friends.

This means that businesses without a Facebook page, that hasn’t been liked by their customers, will automatically be excluded from these search results. Considering that people spend about 6.75 hours per month on Facebook (18% of time online is spent on social media) then businesses will want to be on the service where their customers are. Furthermore 29% of people use Facebook whilst they watch TV. This means that when a product pops up on a television show that they are watching they can simply search Facebook and like that brand page. From then it only takes one person searching for dentists, restaurants or chewing gum to pop up results showing which friends have liked certain pages. It won’t take long for brands with a heavy Facebook presence to begin to see more and more customers as this new search tool is rolled out to more users. It’s only natural for customers to flock to these brands. After all. Their friends have vouched for them!