Facebook Graph Search & Your Business

Facebook last week announced a new search product to its one billion plus users - Graph Search.

Yes – it’s a pretty dodgy name, we agree - but nevertheless Facebook described Graph Search as "a new and improved search experience that allows users to discover people, places and things on Facebook. Whether you are a Page, place, group, app, or game, you and the content you share can appear in search results based on the information you have shared and the connections you have. ”

The topic of search and social convergence has been on the lips of social media marketers for probably the last 18 months or so. Ever since Google+ came along and showed us its +1 button and its reworked search algorithm we began to realise that our online searches are becoming more socially influenced. It was only a matter of time then that the king of social branched out into search – just as the king of search had delved into the world of social. Graph Search seems to be another mammoth blow dealt in Facebook and Google’s clash of the online titans.

I’ve seen plenty of blog posts over the last week letting us know what Facebook Graph Search is, but what we all really want to know is how you as a business can use it to your advantage.

You’d be foolish to think there are bigger online marketing platforms than Facebook and Google. The two Goliaths have a huge say in defining the digital marketing landscape, and because of this an introduction of a new platform such as Google+ or Graph Search brings about significant changes that affect all types of online marketers.

Econsultancy last week contacted several search and social media experts and asked them what were the main opportunities for brands, here’s what they had to say:

Matt Owen, Social Media Manager at Econsultancy

"If Facebook can provide a genuinely accurate ad targeting system then the payoff will be far better. I can certainly see the opportunity for local search increasing massively. If Facebook can also integrate this properly across mobile then it could be a huge threat to Yelp! And Google’s business listings. I’m sure that restaurant reviews by people you know would carry far more weight than anonymous ones."

Kelvin Newman, Strategy Director at SiteVisibility

"I think the biggest advantage for brands is this is going to surface people who have liked you in the past to their friends more frequently. This is good news because often someone will have liked you, but then not really interacted, so your brand will never appear in the newsfeed. Now that connection lives on and potentially helps you appear in searches more frequently, so it certainly increases the value of dormant 'likers'."

Will Francis, Director at Harkable

"The product looks to be of immediate benefit to location-based brands such as shops, restaurants, etc. - 'where do my friends go for pizza?' -  and content providers such as publishers and film studios - 'what films do my friends like most?'. It will be interesting to see how the product comes to be used and how brands exploit those common uses to appear in users' search results."

Robin Grant, MD at We Are Social

"If Facebook evolves Graph Search beyond the current limits of 'People, Photos, Places, and Interests' and in turn users warm to it, it could succeed and therefore become relevant to brands. This would mean that Facebook's sponsored result ads would become more relevant for advertisers, and ultimately it would mean that raw fan numbers would be much more important to brands (or more accurately, the number of fans they have that match the profile of their customer base), as to appear in Graph Search results a brand will need to have a friend of the searcher as a fan. It would also make it essential for retailers, or any business with physical locations, to maintain Facebook place pages for each of their branches."

As Robin Grant says, interestingly, the introduction of Graph Search means that the currently humble Facebook “like” is set to become valuable again. Those old enough to remember a time when the Facebook "like" was worth its weight in gold will remember the huge reach available to those with a healthy "like" count. Then Mr. Zuckerberg ordered a shift in Facebook's Edgerank algorithm, and brands found that they were only reaching a small fraction of their audience, with Facebook ultimately seeking payment for a return on reach.

The reason for the page "like" coming back in to play is mainly due to the fact that users will begin to search for advice from their Facebook friends. Therefore the country pub or sweet shop with more "likes" within that particular group of friends has a huge advantage over its rivals. This may be something to think about going forward if you're a brand or business.

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So, what should you do next? Well, although it may take a while for Graph Search to be truly implemented (Zuckerberg himself said that“It will take years and years to map the whole index of the graph.”) it's still important to make sure you're prepared when that day does come around. Here's what we recommend you do initially:

  • Start thinking about all your posts in terms of SEO. Therefore, it's important to ensure that your text, photos and videos all contain relevant keywords to increase the likelihood of you showing up in users search results.
  • Implement a plan whereby you encourage your fans to take an action to deepen connections. This could be tagging your brand in photos, checking in, or liking your brand page.
  • Make sure your "About" section on your page is up-to-date.
  • If you have a physical location, then make sure all the location information within your page is updated .
  • We’ll endeavour to keep you updated on all the opportunities and implications for your brand. In the meantime, let us know how useful you think Graph Search will be for your business.

    Post written by Content & Community Manager Steven Owens

    Paul Shepherd

    I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.