Back in January, Facebook announced a new search feature called Graph Search, which you may have heard about. According to Facebook, “tens of millions of people” used it, and gave feedback.
And this week the social media site says it tweaked Graph Search and rolled it out to all U.S. Facebook users.
The extent to which Graph Search will benefit businesses, however, remains to be seen.
Back in January some observers were underwhelmed and/or put off by invasion of privacy implications. Techcrunch”s Natasha Lomas pronounced Graph Search “humorless, creepy and doomed to disappoint.”
Sam Biddle at Gizmodo pointed out how individuals may reveal information they might not want the world to know.
And while I haven’t revealed anything on my personal Facebook profile or business Pages that I don’t want the world to know, some others have. For instance, I was shocked to discover almost 10 people I’ve never heard of claiming to work for Small Business Trends! That’s something I learned by searching on our trademarked brand name. See screenshot above of the employees I never knew we had.
Aside from that little tidbit — which I still am not sure what to do about — it’s hard for me to see how Graph Search will be of much value to my business.
But there is one type of business I can see immediately getting some value from Graph Search: local businesses.
Let me give you a quick look of what Graph Search can do for your business (or not).
Searchers Have to “Activate” Graph Search
The first thing you should know about Graph Search is that users may still have to “activate” it if they haven’t used it yet. Luckily that’s a simple process.
Go to the Facebook Graph Search page. Scroll down until you see the large button that says “Try Graph Search” and click on that. If you’re not able to click on that button, it means Graph Search is already available to you.
In my case, I had to click that button, log out of Facebook, and immediately log back in, before I could use Graph Search.
Next, to use Graph Search, you simply insert a search phrase in the recently-enlarged search box that now appears in the top left corner of Facebook. When you do that, you will see many new searching options, presented in the drop-down.
For instance, let’s say you are looking for blue widgets. When you search, the first item to come up likely is the Facebook Page for Blue Widgets. But if Graph Search is enabled, most likely you will also see some new search options, such as:
- Photos of Blue Widgets
- Pages about Blue Widgets
- My friends who like Blue Widgets
- People Who Like Blue Widgets
See the screenshot below showing some of these new search options. If you can see those sorts of search options, you know that you have Graph Search enabled.
Which Small Businesses Will Find Graph Search Useful?
Whether small businesses will get value out of Graph Search — at least in its current form — all depends. It depends on the type of business you have, and your needs.
Getting Your Business Discovered: Local Businesses
One benefit of Facebook Graph Search is that it may make some businesses easier to get discovered.
That’s not true for a business like ours, Small Business Trends. We’re not a local business. Not many people will be searching for our type of business by location. Nor will they be searching by, say, type of product to find us.
Local businesses or retailers that sell particular types of products, is a different story. Graph Search may be more helpful to them, to get discovered.
For example, let’s say you run a pizza restaurant. If someone is searching for pizza that their friends like, in their local town, your pizza place may get discovered that way. And for a local business, that could be valuable.
For example, I searched for pizza places my friends visited in Cleveland, Ohio, and got a nice list with reviews.
If you are a local business, make sure your location is spelled out clearly on your Facebook Page. Take the time to describe your business — the products you sell and services you provide. The more detail on your Facebook Page, the more that can show up in a search.
Also, the bigger your following or fan network, the more benefit you get out of Graph Search. Facebook Graph Search is really about search at the intersection of word of mouth. Graph Search is very good for helping someone find out what their friends like. The more people who Like your business, the more chances of your business appearing in the Graph Search results when users search for what their friends like.
So keep growing that fan base. Ask satisfied customers to leave reviews of your business, also.
Using Graph Search for Marketing and Advertising
Another use of Graph Search could be for prospecting for new customers and connections based on very specific interests, i.e., microtargeting. It can help you identify specific people who like something.
Of course, reaching out to them directly might seem intrusive, and backfire.
Some Wall Street analysts have talked about the power of upcoming Graph Search ads. While that makes for a good investor theme (Facebook is under pressure to increase ad revenues, after all), some of the analysts making those assertions appear not to know much about advertising on Facebook.
For instance, you can already slice and dice your ad targets on Facebook. Facebook ads excel at their ability to target people with certain interests.
True, those ads don’t appear in search results. But Facebook’s search results are not Google’s search results.
Unlike when people search in a search engine, they are not usually searching with buying intent when using Facebook Graph Search. As Eoin Keenan of Silicon Cloud points out, in Facebook “… most searches will have nothing to do with brands. Searches are designed to find content, like photos or posts that are specified by locations, friends or another identifier.”
Besides, Graph Search ads are experimental and something for the future.
You still can’t search through Facebook posts and comments, either, although Facebook is reportedly working on those.
Bottom line: don’t expect too much out of Graph Search when it comes to your marketing – at least in its current iteration. Aside from helping local businesses get discovered more/better, it may not provide much value to your business.
For Those Concerned About Privacy on Facebook
Finally, if you get alarmed at the idea of others being able to search so easily for everything you’ve personally ever shared on Facebook, go to the Graph Search Privacy page. You will find instructions to control what you share publicly.
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