How to Use Facebook’s Graph Search as a PR Tool

Photo courtesy of AP/Jeff Chiu

Photo courtesy of AP/Jeff ChiuA while ago we posted on how Facebook‘s newfangled “graph search” setup could help PR pros and marketers more effectively push their clients’ content to the general public and conduct market research. But here’s something we never thought about: what if graph search could double as a media contact database?

We recently spoke to Peter Axtman of Sunshine Sachs to learn how he used graph search to score a big PR win for a client with a very specific target audience.

Axtman was working to promote a client called Playground Sessions, an instructional app-maker that is “like Rosetta Stone for piano”. Axtman told us that, though the client had received some “mainstream tech coverage“, he “wanted to talk to niche piano publications” that might appeal more explicitly to the client’s target audience — people interested in learning to play piano or improve their form without in-person training.

So he turned to graph search with surprising (and encouraging) results.

Graph search allows users to search the entire Facebook database — which includes all “public” information on the network’s one billion users — by name, topic or subject of interest. Axtman says, “I started searching for ‘journalists who like to play piano’, ‘music journalists who write about piano music’, etc”. Then he dug a little deeper:

“It took four to five different specialized searches until I came across the profile for the editor of Making Music magazine. He hadn’t heard of Playground Sessions but it seemed perfect for his audience: people who want to learn music.

So I started looking into it, realized it was the perfect audience, got the editor’s contact info and got in touch with him. It turned out that the editor was really interested in the topic. We had a call and a demo yesterday that should result in editorial coverage and we’re also working on a partnership with them to give some readers access to Playground’s products.”

Of course there were some challenges:

“When I started doing it I realized that lots of people have fake titles on their profiles, so I had to determine who was actually a journalist.

But I discovered people from lots of different outlets. One of the best uses was finding people who like piano who are reporters at music magazines versus piano enthusiasts who write for Sports Illustrated, etc.”

Peter says, “I saw it as something similar to Muck Rack“, the excellent journalistic database to which we also subscribe. “I realized the people I needed to talk to would generally like X, Y and Z, so I approached it in terms of looking for someone in the profession who satisfied those two inputs”. The key benefit of the service is the ability to “search every user who keeps his/her info public.”

Peter’s colleague Andrew Stein offers another example:

“I was trying to get in touch with Brian Stelter at The New York Times and I knew that someone in our office was friends with him. I was able to search my friends who were also friends with him, find which of my friends and colleagues knew him and then get a proper intro rather than cold calling him.”

What do we think? Sounds promising, no?