What Facebook Graph Search Means for Your Business

Facebook Graph Search

Finally! Facebook invests in an effective social search engine!

Back in October, I wrote about all of the reasons an improved Facebook Search Could Change the Internet. As we awaited Facebook’s “big announcement,” I was holding out hope that this would be it.

Now, Graph Search isn’t exactly what I had envisioned. In fact, it is in some cases what I didn’t want.

But Mark Zuckerberg also was quick to point out that this is a beta version. He repeatedly suggested that they will be working on this for years to make it great.

Because of that, I’ll try not to be too disappointed about the things that are missing. But below is a recap of some of the ways that Graph Search will impact your business now and in the future, as well as features that have yet to be mentioned that need to be considered.

What is There Now

While it’s an early iteration, there are already a few key features of Graph Search that will positively impact your business.

Local and Social Discovery
An effective Facebook search is a tool that businesses have needed for social discovery. Now users can perform one of the following searches to find your business or product (a few examples):

  • “restaurants in San Francisco”
  • “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India”
  • “tourist attractions visited by my friends in Italy”
  • “restaurants in New York liked by chefs”
  • “books read by CEOs”

This is what has been missing. The greatest part about this is that these types of searches suggest purchase intent.

Note that these searches can be — but aren’t necessarily — focused on friends. If not related to friends, the results will pull from information you are allowed to see based on privacy settings (content posted publicly or to friends of friends, for example).

Results will be displayed in a ranking order based on factors that include friend connections, likes, ratings and more.

That’s right, ratings. You may have noticed that Facebook recently began asking you to rate businesses that you’ve checked into. This information has been surfaced on Facebook Nearby and will now show up in Graph Search results.

Sponsored Results
Facebook says that no new advertising unit has been launched with Graph Search. While one is undoubtedly coming, brands can continue to use Sponsored Results to show up in Facebook search results.

Since Sponsored Results target specific pages and aren’t keyword driven, it will be interesting to see how this will work. It’s possible that if you target “Farmville,” your ad will come up when anyone runs a query that lists Farmville in the results. Or maybe your ad will appear when people specifically search for Farmville (“friends who play Farmville”).

Or maybe… You’ll only show up in results of queries run the old fashioned way. Time will tell. But this will certainly evolve.

Interest Targeting
Since you can currently create Facebook ads that target users with specific interests, advertisers can now use Graph Search to spot ideal interests targets.

For example, I could run the following search: “Pages liked by people who like Jon Loomer Digital.”

I would then be presented with the top results relevant to me. I could do the same thing with competitors that are similar to my business. When running ads, I would then have a larger and potentially more relevant interest list to work from.

What is Coming

It’s still early. Lots of stuff is missing. Facebook has acknowledged that at least these two things will be coming…

It’s bordering on criminal that mobile isn’t included in this launch, but I guess I get it. Facebook first wants to get this product into a “usable” state before applying it to mobile.

But come on! This is where it would benefit businesses most.

While it’s nice to run these searches on my computer, it’s even better when I’m out and about. Sure, that’s what Nearby is currently for, but it would be nice if Graph Search were much more closely integrated into that feature.

Of course, you can expect that it will be. It just isn’t yet.

Search of Posts and Actions
You can search for people, places, photos and interests, but what about posts and actions?

Now, this may have more of a personal than business benefit. But one could also imagine turning up posts from friends who checked into a restaurant with a few words about how they liked it. Not a recommendation, but the post itself.

And brands could also use this to turn up general sentiment about their brand.

What is Missing

Like I said at the top, Graph Search is actually not what I had envisioned in a Facebook search product. In fact, it’s pretty close to what I didn’t want.

Search of Content Off of Facebook
Sure, Bing will be integrated. But based on the reports I’ve seen, it’s not changing anything that Bing already does. Just surfacing their results.

I voiced my concern about a Facebook-centric search back in October:

The average Facebook user has about 140 friends, and that just isn’t a large enough sample size to create search results that I’d trust. I don’t have enough friends to feel confident that the answer to every question I have will filter through them.

Granted, Facebook also lets you search beyond your network to get public and friends of friends results that may help you. But I see this as limiting.

Graph Search will make people more aware of what they’re sharing and to whom (though, come on! How many times have we been through this?). My biggest concern is that this could make people increasingly private, thereby making the results less and less useful.

What about all of the Like buttons that exist on websites? Facebook has endless data on the articles that are shared and liked.

This doesn’t have to be a search of Facebook content only. Since Facebook is so deeply integrated into everything, why can’t Facebook turn up results for the content with the greatest authority?

Ad Targeting by Keyword Phrases
It’s not here yet, but you have to think it’s coming. Target either full or partial phrases that turn up in these search queries.

But it’s not there yet. And that’s disappointing.

What Do You Think?

Will Facebook Graph Search be useful? What are other ways that brands can use it to their benefit?

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  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    I agree with your statement about mobile. Facebook strategy about having a good working system prior to launching it for mobile sounds very logic, but… how sure are we they are going to do it – and when? I am concerned they do not care about mobile as much as they should. For example, when are they going to allow apps. and tabs to be used on mobiles ? (without the business needing to develop an alternate version of the app and give access through a URL, etc….)

    Apart of this, I see a tool with lots of potential that will leverage the power of Social Media by giving companies new opportunities to promote their businesses (e.g.: “Like us? Say it on Facebook”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1089785493 Scott Linklater

      I think they are acutely aware of the importance of mobile, they are just starting from a long way back and the lag to catch up is going to take some time.

      Re apps working on mobile, 2 different sources at 2 different Facebook company events said it was not on their radar for the next 12 months…and that was about 2 months ago…very disappointing as I am just about to bite the bullet and spend a big chunk of money developing a system to do what they should do natively!

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      It would be pretty careless of Facebook not to care about mobile. I think it’s simply a matter of getting this to the public and knowing what an enormous project it is to move it across mobile as well. In the past, Facebook would create things for desktop without thinking about the impact on mobile. I don’t think that’s the case here. They are simply being careful about the implementation.

  • nancymyrland

    Great recap, thanks Jon. It is very interesting, and holds a great deal of opportunity, but I think the game-changer will be when all content can be searched for words and phrases we and our businesses care about. Then we can begin segmenting and targeting, then forming even stronger relationships with those with whom we would like to do business. We will stay tuned!

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Agreed, Nancy! I want to find content not just on Facebook. Or even on Facebook — but links shared there. So which blog post, for example, is the best resource for X? Not just based on shares, but based on the authority of those who have shared it?

      Will be interesting!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/margo.bastow Margo Bastow

    Thanks for the recap. Will be interesting to see the business success stories this new feature will bring.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Agreed, Margo!

  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.neethling Martin Neethling

    Will this possibly mean that marketers will use their personal profiles more often for marketing posts ?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Why would you expect that, Martin?

  • http://www.spiderworking.com/ Amanda Webb

    I’m not sure that 140 trusted friends isn’t a big enough sample. In some ways it will work better than the Google+ personalised search, people connect to less people on Facebook and they are more likely to be real friends that they share opinions with. I would know whose recommendations I trust on Facebook and it’s the quality of my connections that will make it effective.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Amanda — well, I think that depends on what you’re looking for. If I’m traveling, for example, how many of those 140 people are going where I’m going? Or if it’s a local search, how many of those 140 people live where I live?

      In the end, your friends will only make up part of this. I think the true value will be in the crowdsourced results (public, friends of friends).

  • http://www.facebook.com/247mktg Steve Cameron

    Hi Jon,

    Great overview of the issue – here’s my take on it – http://advent.es/adventblog/entry/22-facebook-introduces-graph-search

    For me the biggest issue is that businesses will start to target those people with the most connections – who are not necessarily those with the best taste or judgement.

    As with so many things online, we have to worry about the “lowest common denominator” – I can see a situation where every time I try to use graph search to find a restaurant I get McDonalds – because so many of my “friends” might have checked in there at some time or another….

    I’m always amazed how some people like my page, and when I look at their profile they have liked 37,500 pages!! How reliable could their judgement possibly be – they clearly like everything they encounter – just like a puppy…. and I wouldn’t choose a dentist a puppy recommended.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, Steve! You make good points. It will be interesting to see this in action to find out just how valuable the results are. I’m looking forward to taking it for a test drive!

      You’re making me think hard about the thought of targeting people with a lot of connections. I’m not sure exactly how that would happen, but you’re right that there would certainly be value in being liked by those people. For example, someone like me would benefit greatly by having someone like Robert Scoble liking my page. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start hounding him, but I can see why some would try to get that action — either subtly or not-so-subtly.

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