Graph Search: 5 Quick (and not so quick) Tips for Marketers

By Michelle Doty | Mar 7, 2013
More Articles by Michelle

If you’re even remotely connected to the tech world, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Facebook’s Graph Search—the “third pillar” of Facebook (alongside News Feed and Timeline) that allows users to search through the immense amount of data shared with them.

I’ve been playing with the feature quite a bit since its launch in January, and genuinely believe it has huge potential… it’s just not there yet, and I’m sure most at Facebook would admit as much. I can envision a day that we turn to Facebook for things like restaurant reviews, places to check out, movies to watch, people to meet—a discovery engine of sort—but as it stands, it’s a fairly frustrating tool.

It relies solely on data your connections—friends, or users with public information—have shared through likes, check-ins and profile information, which is inherently incomplete and unreliable (unless all of your connections fill out their profiles completely, check-in to every place they go, like everything they like in real-life honestly, not ironically, and remember to update this information as it changes). In other words, Graph Search is only as good as your connections and the information they provide, and for me, that’s pretty disappointing (it would seem my friends aren’t incredibly forthright with their personal information, and the information they do provide is often of the ironic, hipster persuasion).

Picture of Hipster Kitty

Liking things on Facebook before it was cool…

For it to be truly useful, Facebook will have to figure out how to incorporate status updates, comments, and data from the Open Graph without jeopardizing privacy, and subsequently sort through all of this information to determine the real value of each like—was it liked ironically,  was this person offered something enticing to like the page, is he just one of those people who indiscriminately likes everything, or… does this like actually mirror real-world sentiment? Long story short, it has a LONG way to go before Graph Search can be really useful for users.

With that said, there’s already a lot marketers and brands can be doing now to get ready for Graph Search’s imminent launch. We covered some of this in our webinar, Understanding Facebook’s Graph Search a few weeks ago, along with a few predictions for Facebook’s newest tool (check out this great infographic outlining these predictions), but I wanted to make sure we covered a few quick, actionable fixes brands and marketers should make now, regardless of what Graph Search becomes in the months ahead.

So, tips for marketers, in order of difficulty, easiest first:

  1. Make sure ALL of your information is up-to-date, complete and correct. Quick fixes:
    • Make sure that you own your vanity URL
    • Optimize your categories and subcategories
    • Upload a 620×620 pix profile picture that will entice your audience
    • If you’re a local business, BE a local business on Facebook
    • Fill out your profile completely, and scatter keywords throughout
    • Add tags and descriptions to existing photos (especially the BEST ones)
    • Start thinking about keywords in status updates and comments (as these are likely to be indexable VERY soon)
  2. Local matters more than ever (especially when Graph Search extends to mobile)
    • Restaurants nearby (that my friends like)” are searches I see happening a lot, so prepare now. If you have a local storefront, or multiple physical presences, make sure your Facebook profiles reflect this.
    • Check that your address, hours, contact information and products/ services are correct
    • If you’re a multi-local brand, consider Facebook’s parent-child page relationship.
    • Encourage likes/ check-ins from people that frequent your store; consider physical signage: Engage with us on Facebook, or Like us on Facebook for up-to-the-minute updates and deals!
  3. Start growing your fan base now.
    • The number of fans/ likes suddenly matters. You want to show up in as many user searches as possible. Since Graph Search is built on connections, you want to make sure you’re connected to as many users as possible—so that these nodes can tell other nodes that another node just might like you.
    • Consider running a Like campaign, to make your chances of being found that much better.
    • Expert tip: do research on existing fans (much easier if you have Graph Search already). Check out other things they’ve liked and make sure to post content relevant to these likes. Once you’ve done the research, consider running promoted posts to friends of fans to get new fans.
  4. It’s not enough to have a few million fans – you need to keep them engaged.
    • Expect Graph Search to work a bit like EdgeRank in News Feed, so fan base size, activity level, check-ins, relevancy to the user or the user’s friends will all play a part.
    • The expert tip above is great for engagement. Research things your fans like and act accordingly. If they’re a particularly sarcastic bunch, reflect that in your brand’s voice.  If they seem to really like photos of cute cats, find a way to work this into your brand strategy.
    • Don’t be afraid to make yourself human. Facebook is a social network. Be sociable. Share, comment, like, and invite feedback: ask for comments, likes, shares, feedback. You’ll be surprised how well asking works.
    • Take a look at posts your fans have engaged with the most in the past, and shift your content to reflect this material.
  5. Oh, and finally, don’t forget about Bing…
    • If you still don’t take Bing seriously as a search engine, you might want to start. For all of those queries that Facebook just can’t answer, users will get Bing results… adjust SEO and PPC strategies accordingly!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Facebook’s Graph Search, and Facebook generally, especially as they’re poised to make their next “big” announcement today: Content-specific News Feeds… so please say hey on Twitter @mdough_tea.

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