Graph – It! Facebook’s Graph Search & the Future of Social Media

Graph - It! Facebook's Graph Search & the Future of Social Media

“What is Graph Search and why should small business care?”. Ahh, that is question flooding the inbox of every social media management firm in the nation…ours included. Is Graph Search something special or merely another phased roll-out by Facebook? Does it increase functionality or decrease it like the pay to promote message system? Keep reading to discover the good, bad and ugly about Facebook’s recent foray into graph search and what (if anything) it means for small business.

Changing Time

Keeping up with Facebook is starting to become a full-time job! Ever since the IPO, Facebook has been in a constant battle to monetize marketing efforts while attempting to placate users. Several recent changes have done little more than annoy users even as small business owners are still integrating paid postings into budget plans. Not surprisingly, Facebook’s most recent release was a bit more subdued than prior offerings leading some to speculate the company is attempting to head-off negativity or simply doesn’t have much to offer. So, what does the new Graph Search actually do and does it mean something special for small business owners?

Graph Search Explained

“Humorless, Creepy and Doomed to Disappoint”, “…will take time to catch on”, “will ignite a search revolution” and “…a disruptive minefield of unanticipated consequences”. These are just a few of the headlines describing the new Facebook Graph search. But what does it actually do? Here to help shed some much needed clarity on what is certainly the most confusing and least anticipated release in social media history is your ever-friendly social media management firm!

The humble “like” button has become so ingrained into society that it is difficult to remember exactly how revolutionary it was upon the initial release. But somewhere between the time it was fun to hit “like” and the faded novelty of hitting like for every little sentiment, brand marketing started to need better ROI. How many “likes” actually converted into new clients, new sales or even increased awareness? That growing concern has led many business brands to question the long term viability of the “like” button…and by default, Facebook’s ability to influence buying patterns.

The new Graph Search function will compile user generated “likes” into searchable content with personalized results. For example, let’s say you wanted to know the favorite dance club frequented by your college friends…perform a graph search and it will compile the user data from these contacts into a personalized search result by counting or compiling the number of “likes” generated by the target group. Want to know the hottest car color for the year? That could come next. The results are nearly endless and demonstrate a very different type of data as that available via traditional search.

Social Search versus Traditional Search Engines

Social search – like that made possible via Facebook’s Graph Search – is inherently different than traditional search engine results based upon keywords and frequency patterns. Traditional search engines like Google are only able to index various forms of content…not make sense or compile unique data based upon individual preferences, connections or social strata. For instance, Google may or may not have an article or other content that specifies the hot color trend in cars for the year but it cannot calculate the color trend of cars among your social contacts. Google might be able to send a single person to different dating sites but won’t be able to compile a list of potential dating partners within a given zip code…. a somewhat creepy if not highly relevant example.

Why the Controversy?

As in our last example, the ability to perform somewhat creepy individualized searches based upon user profiles, location and other parameters could lead to privacy and security concerns. Facebook is quick to point out that results will only show information that is viewable via regular privacy settings. So, for example, if age and address are not publically available then that information wouldn’t be available via the Graph search data for the general public. If information is available only to existing friends and connections, then only they would be able to see the same data. However, this does put the impetus upon the user to understand the revised “Terms of Service” and implications going forward.

Add in Instagram

Never one to shy away from a bit of controversy, Facebook also intends to embed Instagram data into the Graph Search results making it easy to locate people, photographs, places and interest areas all in one clean swoop.

And then Optimize

Of course, all of these features will not be without additional social media marketing implications. Facebook is already announcing upcoming optimization tips for business brands interested in utilizing Graph Search. What are these optimization tips? To date, they are still rather generic but include items such as…

1. Include the name, category, URL and company information.

2. Use local social search and make sure directions, maps and other location based information.

3. Focus on interaction with fans.

Ready or Not!

Ready or not, Facebook Graph search is coming soon to a social search near you. Although currently still in beta, the future of social search is very bright indeed. Is your business prepared? If not, the time to talk with your social media management agency is NOW!

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