Facebook Graph Search: a Promising Tool for Inbound Marketing

By: | February 9th, 2013

I don’t know about you, but too many times I found myself searching in vain for an article I had liked on Facebook or a restaurant a friend had visited and mentioned on Facebook. More often than not, these searches were fruitless and mainly consisted of going deeper and deeper into the timeline and coming up with nothing but frustration. With so many people posting, sharing, liking and checking in places so many times a day, searching for something that was mentioned even a week ago is nothing short of Sisyphean.

This is why the announcement of Facebook Graph Search has generated a huge wave of excitement.

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search is, in essence, social search; as such, it provides a very different experience than Google or other search engines. Facebook takes advantage of its knowledge about your friends, their locations, professions, hobbies, photos and brands they like, to create a vast graph on which you can make the connections that are relevant for you.

Watch a demo of Facebook Graph Search here:

Think of Facebook Graph Search as a virtual connect-the-dots game and you will begin to gain an insight into the world of possibilities it offers. For example, as a vegan and second-hand enthusiast I can definitely see myself searching for “vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv my friends like” or “second-hand shops in Berlin my friends have been to”. The uniqueness of Graph Search is its social aspect – results on it are raked by people who are important to you. Therefore, you don’t just get a random (or promoted) result like you do on Google, but rather the equivalent of a word-of-mouth recommendation by your friends.

At this point you may be asking yourself: that’s great, but can I also use Graph Search to promote my business? The answer, in short, is: yes, you can. And now let’s dig deeper and see how it can be done.

Facebook Graph Search for Inbound Marketing

Facebook Graph Search holds great potential for businesses, by bringing together all the existing features that help promote businesses and brands on Facebook: Likes, Check-ins, Business Pages, etc. Naturally, Facebook has also thought of this, and gives its own tips to page owners on how to make sure their business will come up in search results.

In a nutshell, Facebook recommendations are:

  • Make sure that your business page is complete and up-to-date at all times.
  • In the “About” section include all the relevant information about your business: page category, website URL, address, etc.
  • Interact with your fans as much as possible with interesting posts, photos, videos, contests and other engaging content.
  • If you have a local place page or a location on Facebook, make sure your accurate address appears there so that your business will pop up when someone searches for that specific location.

For more information on how to squeeze the most potential out of your business page, you can check out our post about creating a great business page on Facebook.

Speaking of local, it currently seems like Graph Search will be more advantageous for small local businesses than for big brands. Why? Because it’s more likely you’ll search for a plumber in your area than wonder which of your friends use American Express. Making your business page Graph-Search-friendly will make it easier to find for your potential customers. A combination of Graph Search optimization and getting citations and local listings of your business, can give your local business a significant edge over the competitors.

Finding businesses on Graph Search

Finding businesses on Graph Search. Taken from Facebook Studio.

More uses for Graph Search: discovering customer personas and spying on competitors

Another nice feature of Graph Search is that the astounding wealth of demographic information it can provide at a single query. While this may not contribute directly to inbound marketing, it provides some very useful insights regarding the audiences you should direct your promotion efforts at. This is because Graph Search also goes further than just your friends. You can base your search on particular groups of people (software engineers, salsa dancers, Yale graduates).

If you’re considering opening a health food store in Madrid, for example, you can search for “people who like health food in Madrid”. Browsing through their profiles will help you develop a buyer persona and understand which group to aim your marketing efforts at (not to mention it can serve as a basis of potential customers).

Furthermore, you can learn quite a bit about your competitors’ action. First of all, searching for “people in (my location) who like (my competitor)” will provide you with a group of people whom you can target for marketing purposes.

Wondering how tough the competition is? Let’s say your business is a bike shop in Seattle. Search for “bike shops liked by people in Seattle”, or, if you’re specifically targeting college students, “bike shops liked by University of Washington students”, and see whether your business comes up first or whether it is further down the list.

But enough about competing – Graph Search also can create great opportunities for partnerships.

You happen to know that many cyclers like energy bars. Why not join forces with a local supplier of energy bars? Just look for “energy bars liked by people who like cycling”. This simple search can be the beginning of a wonderful partnership. Both partners can interact with each other and their fans on their Facebook business pages, thus encouraging fans of one business like the other’s business page. For example, both pages could post about a competition in which the person who posts the best photo of their bike gets a free package of energy bars. The new likes gained by each business in this way will help promote it on Graph Search.

Facebook Graph stats

With great power comes great connectivity. Taken from CBS San Francisco.

Some drawback and final comments

I’m quite excited about Graph Search, to tell you the truth. I would go as far as saying that it marks a new era in searching. However, before we get too carried away, it is important to note that at the moment Facebook Graph Search has some major limitations:

  • Right now, only a beta version is available, and only to a limited number of users. You can sign up for it if you want to try it but it may take days of weeks before Facebook enables this feature for you.
  • Graph Search is only available for those using Facebook in US English.
  • It is not available on mobile.

Nevertheless, Facebook will probably solve all these issues eventually. And when it does, I’m pretty sure it’s going to a super-ultra-mega search machine, one that will make Google feel threatened – and rightfully so.

A penny for your thoughts

What do you think of Facebook Graph Search? Do you also believe it’s going to change searching history or you think it’s nothing but a nice feature that caused way too much hype? Do you have more ideas on how it can help in marketing? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us!

Dafna Ben-Yehoshua Google+

A biologist turned content writer who dances lindy hop for fun. Specializes in multi-tasking and never getting enough sleep. An expert on cats, dark chocolate, and how prevent cats from eating her chocolate.

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