Facebook’s Graph Search Will Both Challenge And Help Brands

Facebook's newest addition — graph search — can change the way brands not only market on the site, but find potential customers through the social network, provided they're savvy enough. Graph search takes the recommendation power of Yelp and combines it with Facebook's tremendous social graph to make it more important for businesses to cater to their Facebook fans and brick-and-mortar customers.

Facebook’s newest addition — graph search — can change the way brands not only market on the site, but find potential customers through the social network, provided they’re savvy enough. Graph search takes the recommendation power of Yelp and combines it with Facebook’s tremendous social graph to make it more important for businesses to cater to their Facebook fans and brick-and-mortar customers.

When Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced graph search to the world Tuesday, experts all over the Web pondered what this could mean for businesses, regular users, and advertisers.

For brands on Facebook, graph search is a challenge. While most marketers know that it’s important to have a social media presence, many of them push out messages to like their brands on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, but they don’t really give patrons an incentive to do either.

Now, through graph search, brands should be more proactive about the way they integrate Facebook into their traditional marketing schemes. Since a Facebook user could type in a query such as, “hair stylists my friends like in San Francisco,” and receive a list of hair stylists in that city that their friends have either checked in, liked, or recommended, it forces brands to put more emphasis on social engagement.

Whereas many businesses fought to get to the top of Google’s algorithm for better search-engine placement, graph search can definitely change the way that brands try to get their names in front of people who are looking for them. Kevin Mullett, director of product development for Cirrus ABS and a search-engine-optimization expert, feels that Facebook’s newest product can be major for small businesses that don’t have the clout to climb Google’s page rankings:

This new “graph search” holds huge potential for very small and lifestyle businesses that may not have a Web presence showing in Google search results or typical local listings. Many newer small businesses don’t even have base Yellow Pages listings because they operate via cellphone or VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) services. It will now be critical for businesses to make sure their Facebook information is correct and complete. Businesses should pay particular attention to their address fields, categories, and “place subcategories.”

Quintly, formerly AllFacebook Stats, states that it places a higher emphasis on positive, quality engagement, since users can see which friends have checked in or talked about pages. Social Media Today pointed out that graph search could make page likes more important again, as results show what friends have liked each page.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best restaurant in the city — if none of a user’s friends like the page, or have posted about it, it won’t show up so high on graph search results.

Jamie Tedford, CEO and founder of Brand Networks, wrote to AllFacebook about how graph search serves as a challenge for businesses to step up their Facebook marking games:

Facebook’s graph search announcement carries major implications for marketers and big brands with a brick-and-mortar presence. A lot of large brands have gotten away with ignoring local marketing, especially in social. But the combination of Nearby and graph search means brands can no longer afford to overlook the huge opportunity that local social marketing represents. Brands need to build local pages, moderate discussions, drive new likes, encourage check-ins, and generally do everything they can to optimize their graph search ranking.

However, while it could also make things more difficult for businesses that don’t have a lot of social marketing talent, it can also help brands by making them accessible to more people. Graph search is mainly about social discovery. If someone was so inclined, they could search for auto repair shops liked by accountants in Dallas, or restaurants in New York liked by chefs who live nearby (as Inside Facebook did below), and get results that they’ve likely never clicked on or heard of.