Graph Search – What It Means for Brands

By this point everyone is aware of the Facebook announcement made yesterday on its newest search product Graph Search. At first glance this service seems more directly competitive with Yelp and Foursquare, via recommendations in a user’s network, and not an attack on Google Search as some had expected/predicted. Graph Search is different from traditional search engines as its results are based on the user’s Facebook graph. This is important to brands as this will now include brand pages.

It appears the concept being built upon here is that connections and recommendations are more valuable from friends on Facebook because users “trust friends’ recommendations more”. This is where the threat to search engines like Google could come into play – however skepticism does exist in regards to how many of our friends on Facebook we actually trust. The addition will of course make it easier for users to find content on a users social graph, helping to identify friends of friends information (aka Facebook stalking) and friends interests (brands, interests, etc).

Facebook notes Graph Search will launch with a slow roll out, in English and for desktop only to start.

So what does this mean for brands?

Implications from a paid perspective:

  • Engagement with a brands current fanbase is now even more important as the ‘strength of connections’ is a factor in search with ‘closest friends’
  • New fans growth is still important as the more fans a brand has the more relevant searches they will appear in
  • Facebook search will feature sponsored search results with Graph Search (this newer ad unit could become useful to test and learn for brands)

The big opportunity for brands:

Mobile! Last minute decisions via mobile search of friends’ recommendations could soon exist on Facebook (restaurants, stores, etc). What this will do to apps like Foursquare, Yelp, Open Table etc. is unclear at this point. It is expected that Facebook will eventually take the intent users are expressing via Graph Search queries and transfer the data to an extension of the Facebook Exchange intent targeting capabilities.

Potential backlash:

Graph Search goes back in time, back to a time when people who are now 30 were in college. A users Facebook actions of past most likely doesn’t represent current day beliefs and behaviors. Because of this we could see an increase in brand pages being ‘unliked’ and events being ‘untagged’ overtime.

In conclusion:

As we’re not currently working with the final version of this functionality we should expect changes and optimizes while in the Beta phase. In the meantime brands should adhere to the Facebook recommendations for ‘searchability’ below. We all should be prepared to optimize and change, as we learn over the next few weeks and months, as to what these changes mean from a strategic and executional perspective.

[From Facebook]

1. Make sure your Page, Place or App information is complete and up to date:

  • The name, category, vanity URL, and information you share in the About section all help a user find your business and should be shared on Facebook
  • If you have a location or local place Page, update your address to make sure you can appear as a result when a user is searching for a specific location
  • Upload a 620×620 pixel resolution profile photo
  • Share content directly on Facebook; only photos and videos shared on your Page can appear as a result for photo and video-related searches

2. Strengthen your connections:
People who engage with your Page or app do matter. Results are ordered based on a user’s relationships with his or her friends, so it’s not just the number of fans or users but also the strength of those connections that are important. For example, if a user searches for restaurants in a particular city, those that are most popular with his/her closest friends will be displayed first. Additionally, results that are similar to a searcher’s existing likes and interests may be ranked higher.

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