Facebook’s New Search Engine and What It Means to Marketing

January 23, 2013

On January 15th Facebook made its latest big announcement unveiling their new search engine called Graph Search. Now that they’ve collected tons of information through Open Graph (essentially the LIKE button that logs our interests) and location information in Places, our photos and posts, they are making it easy to sort through it to find some relevancy. Their mission is to bring your network even closer together through Graph Search. Facebook says we will be able to “find more of what we’re looking for on Facebook and discover fun connections between people, places and things.”

How it works

­­Facebook started building Graph Search with three things in mind: people, places and things. As users we will be able to conduct a very specific search, such as “single friends who live near me” and Graph Search will deliver customized results based on our network, pages we like and even images we are tagged in.

For those of us who have business pages, Facebook promises Graph Search will help people discover it too. By searching something like, “restaurants my friends like in San Diego” we will be able to find “recommendations” so to speak. To get a little technical, according to Forbes.com, “The word “graph” has little to do with those x-y coordinate geometry exercises we all struggled with in high school. It is social media shorthand for “demographics… So, when Facebook rolls out “Graph Search,” you should understand it as “Facebook Demographic Database Search.”

Privacy Concerns Anyone?

Facebook has placed privacy concerns at the forefront of this rollout. Go to the help section and the first thing you’ll find is an explanation on Facebook Graph Search privacy. Maybe they learned something over the past few years from testing new features on users and from the recent Instagram terms of service faux pas! Luckily Graph Search was built to align with your existing privacy settings so that anyone searching will only queue up information about you which you’ve already shared with them. So, based on your settings different people will see different results. It also means that we will be able to search and see things in a more microscopic way. Maybe you’ll even catch your next catfish.

If you are one of those people who haven’t paid much attention to your privacy settings and enjoy carefree posting, you may be in for a surprise. To avoid any surprises I suggest you do three things:

1. Edit your Facebook privacy settings.

2. Audit your timeline for status updates and photos you’ve posted, and who they are shared with.

3. Look at your profile information, anything you put there will be searchable. And by the way, advertisers are already targeting you using it.

Try It Out

Like most new features, Graph Search is going to be rolled out slowly so Facebook can monitor how it is being used. However, you can try a sample search here or join the waiting list for the limited beta program with the click of a button here.

Here is an example using our team member Angela’s profile. Using “try a search” Facebook came up with a list of “people who live in your city.”

What It Means For Marketers

So what does the Facebook Graph Search mean to businesses? It means that we will be able to reach people through word-of-mouth in a more powerful way organically. We already have the ability to target people in Facebook advertising by location, likes, and interests. Now, all that hard-earned loyalty and fan love we’ve invested in will pay off in search results rankings on Facebook. Get ready to begin discussing Facebook as a search strategy. Facebook Graph Search (FGS) is the next SEO! Or, shall we say LIKE is the new SEO? Here’s an action for you marketers:

1. Integrate the LIKE button to your website pages.

2. Apply Open Graph optimization to your website pages so they are indexed with correct information about your business and products, and so that your page information, link and thumbnail display properly in Facebook.

3. If you are a business, continue to regularly engage on your Facebook page. By reaching out you still have a better chance of connecting than waiting for people to find you in a search.

4. If you have a location-based business such as a storefront, create or claim your Place or location listing on Facebook. You can combine your Page with your Place if it makes sense. Managing and monitoring your location listing needs to be taken seriously in your marketing plan.

5. Arm your employees with the power of Facebook. Using their personal Facebook profiles they can manage friendships with influencers and use Graph Search to target outreach for your brand. I do not recommend you begin spamming people, follow best practices for influencer outreach and Facebook’s guidelines. Only try this using trained social marketing specialists or community managers.

Is Facebook Graph Search a threat to Google search and location-based services like Foursquare? Tell us what you think.

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