It’s not the sexiest name, but it could be the sexiest thing to hit search for a while. Somebody needed to shake things up, but we’re not totally convinced this is it. Last month, Facebook launched its limited, beta version of its own social media search program, Graph Search. According to Facebook, “Graph Search helps you find people, places and things—and explore Facebook in a whole new way.” This new search option will differ on an individual level because the results are dependent on your friends and followers. Facebook will pull results based on what restaurants your friends like, what music they listen to, or who they are connected with. To search for things, users just have to type their search into the blue bar at the top of the page and as you type, suggestions appear below.
Some examples that people may search for are:
- People who like Baseball and live in San Diego, CA
- French Restaurants like by people from Paris, France
- Photos before 2001
- Music liked by My Friends
As mentioned above, search results will be different for everyone because not everyone has the same friends and likes. From a business standpoint, this makes your presence on Facebook all the more important. You want your customers to be interacting with your page and sharing its content with their friends.
The first thing you should check, regardless of your industry, is making sure that all of your information is correct and categorized correctly. For example, if you are a mom and pop Italian Restaurant, you want to make sure you choose “Local Business,” specifically “Restaurant/Café.” You also want to make sure you choose at least three sub categories for your business. Using the example above, you may want to choose things like “Italian Restaurant,” “Pizza Restaurant,” or “Pasta Restaurant.” You also want to confirm that your address is correct (and that Facebook recognizes it) and that your hours of operation are current. Next, you should ensure that people could post pictures and tag themselves at your location. These setting can be changed within the “Manage Permissions” settings that any approved manager can alter. This is important because you want to make sure your fans have the ability to show that they visited your business and share their experience.
Now that people have the ability to post pictures and tag their location, you want to make sure you are encouraging them to do so. One easy option is to offer discounts for those who check-in to your business. This can either be done through a Facebook campaign or you can just have them show you their smart phone when they come up to the register. If you choose to do the register check-in, you can advertise this deal through traditional channels like flyers or posters. If you run a business that often has big parties or groups, you can implement a group check-in. For example, if 10 or more people check-in, you can get a free appetizer or 10% off your service. This makes sure you gain the connections with everyone in the party, which will allow your business to show up when all their friends are using graph search.
Along with check-in’s, likes are also becoming more important. The more people who like your business, the more connections will be available when people are searching. Incentives are one what of achieving this. You can run ads or flyers that inform people that if they like your page, they can get something in return (discounts, free t-shirt, coffee mug, etc.). Another option is to run a geo-targeted paid ad for like campaign. With this, you can choose the people you want to see your ad. This can be categorized by age, gender, location, school, etc. This way, you can target people who you think will provide the greatest connections for your business and will lead to the most search results.
Only time will tell if this will be a threat to Google search, but with all the influence that recommendations from friends and family have and the information tying all these interests together in people’s social graph, this could eat away at some of that big search margin Google has today. Or it could just be another unused feature in a service that’s becoming more bloated and losing more consumers each month (Facebook) as teens run away from their parents using Facebook.
Graph Search is just in the beta stage so there is not much evidence of how this will affect SEO and other search results yet. But, it is better to be ahead of the curve and make sure your Facebook business page is optimized to give you the greatest chance of benefiting from this new search. Even if this turns out to be a total bust, following these steps will still help your social presence and online reputation.