It looks like the playing field has been leveled once again for smaller businesses trying to keep up with big brand Pages on Facebook with the release of Graph Search. Introduced as the third pillar in the force that is Facebook (alongside the News Feed and Timeline), this is exactly the break smaller and location-centric businesses have been waiting for. Users will now be able to perform searches for people, places, photos and interests within their own social graph. Posts set to private will not be searchable. This means you will be able to search your friends' wall posts, as long as they are not set to private. If your friend posted about a restaurant in Savannah, and you are searching for places to eat while visiting, Graph Search will pick it up, making the search more personalized to you.
While we're on the subject of private wall posts, it shouldn't be too surprising that Facebook is coming under fire for what many consider to be the worse case of privacy violation the company has faced yet: employing users personal information to tailer Graph Search for their friends. There's no need to worry. There are many tools available to manage your privacy settings very efficiently within Facebook. The caveat is that it's up to the user to proactively manage their privacy settings. Facebook has given users the capability to control exactly what information they would like to be searchable within Graph Search.
It must be noted that Graph Search is still in the process of being rolled out, and is not yet available to all users. You'll notice you have Graph Search when the little search bar at the top has been replaced and to the top left of the page you'll see “Search for people, places and things” and an invite to an introductory tour from Facebook. Graph Search will certainly shake up your marketing plans, however, the benefits to businesses will be substantial as they adapt their Pages to the Graph.
The primary ways Graph Search changes the game are 1) local Pages are now just as likely to be found as bigger brand Pages, and 2) as the mobile trend continues, Graph Search is in the perfect position to meet consumer needs as it lifts local Pages to a more useful level than a brand-only Page, since users are engaging through mobile at the local level. No matter how many people “Like” your brand's Page, unless you can translate it to engage users locally, you will be losing some ground in your Facebook marketing. Graph Search is still so new, but let me share an example. Graph Search is tailored to personal interests and connections so I'll use a personal interest of mine – gluten-free cupcakes – and my location – Boston – for the search to illustrate the importance of local relevancy.
I entered “Gluten free” and the category of restaurants comes up first. Next I enter “cupcake” and you can see the results above. Georgetown Cupcake comes up at the top of the results. Great! My friends and I have been there and I know they offer gluten-free cupcakes. Udi's Gluten Free Foods also comes up, which is a gluten free food brand, as well as Crushcakes Cupcakery, which I have never heard of. It looks like one of my friends has been there though and it's in the town where I used to live. So it looks like Georgetown Cupcakes is my best bet from this list. I click to their Page for more information, and what do I find?
It's their brand Page! Okay, this is good to know they have shops in Boston, Los Angeles, NYC, etc., but it doesn't give me the local information I was looking for. What flavors of gluten free cupcakes are available today in Boston? What are their hours? Is it becoming a little bit clearer how brands will need to adapt to meet users needs?
Max Gladwell sheds some light, “The challenge for national brands in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries — any company with multiple locations — is that they've invested nearly all of their Facebook resources into building and supporting brand pages for the purpose of publishing content and managing customer relationships at the corporate level. But these brands don't do business at the corporate level. They do business at the local level through large, brick-and-mortar networks. When it comes to Graph Search, these physical locations and their corresponding local Facebook pages are what really matter.”
What tasks should you add to your agenda to bring your brand Pages up to speed with Graph Search? The following will help kick start your brand's presence on Graph Search:
- Do you have three different store locations? You will want them all to have a presence. Claim your brand's local Pages on Facebook.
- Update your Pages with accurate contact details, categorization and geocode (latitude and longitude).
- Identify and consolidate duplicate pages for your locations.
- Inspire customers to like, check in, recommend, rate and tag photos on your local pages.
- Share authentic and relevant content with your local Pages.
- Measure local Page performance against your competitors’ local Page.
Graph Search can only get better as local businesses and big brands alike adapt to help create even more tailored search results for users. Besides the privacy concerns that some users have (when hasn't privacy been a hot topic?), Graph Search looks to be a game changer for Facebook, users and businesses alike.