• 01/16/2013
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5 Things Facebook Graph Search Means For Business

Graph Search creates new social business opportunities, but not without some elbow grease. Here's what you must do to take advantage.
10 Social Networks For Special Interests
10 Social Networks For Special Interests
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The BrainYard editor David Carr recently wrote a story that provided some very helpful tips for searching for content on Facebook and Twitter. The story was especially welcome because search on social networks has been so woefully limited. With the introduction of Facebook Graph Search, it seems that is about to change. And with that change, organizations doing any kind of business on Facebook will have to make several changes themselves.

On Tuesday, during a press conference that had been hyped almost to Apple proportions (well, maybe not that much), Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new tool, which will enable users to perform more sophisticated search across the Facebook network. Graph Search focuses on four main areas: people, photos, places and interests. Currently in beta, Graph Search lets users search on terms such as "recommendations for Thai food in Central Massachusetts" or "people who like Lady Gaga" or "photos from CES."

Graph Search results will be pulled from Facebook's ever-expanding treasure trove of social data, including 1 billion user profiles. But, as my colleague Tom Claburn reported from the announcement at the company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, Facebook is emphasizing that Graph Search is "privacy aware," and that users will be able to search only on content that has been shared with them.

Ari Lightman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of its CIO Institute, told The BrainYard that Graph Search extends the search continuum that Google and Bing are on, creating greater Facebook loyalty -- and much greater opportunity for Facebook to increase ad revenue. "Facebook is moving along that continuum by developing tighter ties with social connections looking at commonalities based on connections and connections of connections within their own community," he said. "This develops more interaction, greater loyalty, so people don't leave and go spend time at those other pesky social networks. In the end they can monetize this activity through targeted advertising. It's written right into the user agreement."

[ Want to be a social biz guru? Learn 5 Secrets To Zuckerberg's Success. ]

To test out Graph Search you have to get on a wait list, and reports from those who have been able to test it out suggest that the "beta" moniker is apt. (In other words, there are still a lot of kinks that Facebook will have to work out.) We'll dive deeper into Graph Search as its capabilities develop, but there are five things that Graph Search will force companies to do (or to do better, as the case may be) now in order to take full advantage.

1. Get Liked

Based on what we know about Graph Search, it seems that "likes" will be valuable currency. The more likes your organization or product or whatever has, the more likely it is that those things will show up in a search. Likes have gone out of favor a bit -- among users and businesses alike -- but there will now be more incentive to get more users to click that button. As the inevitable rush for likes ensues, it will be important for businesses to offer users something in return (say, the chance to win your newest product or the release of some hidden video if enough people like your page).

2. Beef Up Content

Content has become increasingly important, but, like likes, its currency rises with Facebook's new search feature. The better and more relevant content you offer, the better the chances you will show up in searches that will lead to new and expanded business opportunities. As UBM TechWeb VP and editorial analyst Eric Lundquist recently noted, "Engagement and content are intertwined."

3. Optimize Content

In addition to increasing the amount of content you offer, you will need to optimize your social media content for search, just as you (hopefully) do on your company website.

4. Develop Dedicated Staff

The kinds of things we are recommending here do not come easily, nor will they come if they are some ill-defined (or non-defined) function within your organization. Depending on your organization's level of Facebook use, it may not make sense to dedicate someone full time to these functions, but it will make sense to clearly outline what needs to be done, by whom, when and how.

5. Prioritize Privacy

Despite Facebook's assurances that privacy is taking a high priority in Graph Search's development, people are wary. And rightly so. Facebook has stumbled in this area many times, and Graph Search seems ripe for privacy problems. Users will be paranoid, and organizations should take that cue. Businesses should be sure to do everything in their power to ensure privacy from their end, and be sensitive to the ways they interact with users.

Will Graph Search open up new opportunities for business, or is it just another Facebook Stories? Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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re: 5 Things Facebook Graph Search Means For Business

Your article is very well thought out and makes perfect sense. On the other hand, it assumes that the new FB search will be a successful hit. FB simply can't compete with Yelp, Google and other giants when it comes to business searches and reviews.

re: 5 Things Facebook Graph Search Means For Business

Thank you for the comment, and you make a very good point. I just think that it will be important for any organization that does business on Facebook to be proactive about Graph Search. Of course, in my humble opinion, following the recommendations I have made will make any company's social presence stronger in general--regardless of Graph Search's level of success (or failure).

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard

re: 5 Things Facebook Graph Search Means For Business

It will be interesting to see how well using "Likes" as a currency will work in terms of informing FB's search engine rankings. I guess, in theory, if you search FB for "Thai food recommendations in Boston" and 7 of your friends all 'like' the same place, you're probably going to take their recommendation and try that place.

The difference between FB and yelp or Google is those recommendations are "warm" as opposed to someone on the web that you may not know/trust. The key difference: trust, which is the true currency of Facebook.

re: 5 Things Facebook Graph Search Means For Business

That's a great point, Mike. It will definitely be interesting to see how the "likes" piece of it plays out.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard

re: 5 Things Facebook Graph Search Means For Business

Things I expect to happen: FB will allow companies to purchase "featured" results in search just like Google. FB will allow "premium" customers to see results outside their network, and/or have their "information" appear in search conducted by those outside their network. FB will implement anti-bot liking or something to prevent posts from being over-liked for fun and profit.
And so on.
Bottom line--they will monetize the heck out of this.

re: 5 Things Facebook Graph Search Means For Business

The potential for monetization is pretty big. I have heard a lot of people complain about the announcement, disappointed that it wasn't something "bigger." I think what they have done will have huge implications moving forward.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard