Imagine a world filled with nothing but happy and engaged consumers.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
This is the new vision of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
What does this mean for local business? Mark Zuckerberg is placing his bets on the future of local search.
His overall plan hinges upon finding the answer to the following question: What if local businesses pooled their resources together? Could their combined might win out over large corporations?
This question seems to be at the forefront of the Facebook CEO’s business-savvy mind.
Last week, Zuckerberg officially announced a new feature – Facebook’s Graph Search – at a press conference.
This entirely social-driven search engine allows users to find people, pages and places through the likes and shares of their Facebook community.
Should the Facebook Graph Search tool gain populariity, it has the potential to deliver users much more relevant and localized search results.
PC World called it good for businesses; while Forbes said it was “not just yet” ready to be praised as the next great social media revolution.
The tool is meant to increase engagement on Facebook, and with FB’s 1 Billion+ community, Facebook Graph Searches could have a major impact on the way people search the web.
Let’s Have A Peek Behind the Curtain
Our society has a brand-new Wizard of Oz. There is no doubt that what began as a social experiment has certainly taken on a life of its own. From its inception in February 2004, Mark Zuckerberg has been asking probing questions about the business hierarchy and consumer behavior.
“Can good companies win over bad,” “how far is our desire to connect with one another,” “are we a world of followers or leaders and what makes someone one versus the other.” For years naysayers and commentators have come after “the wizard,” for his imagination gone overly egotistical mastermind personality.
Those kinds of comments were highlighted in April 2012 after a Wall St Journal investigation into privacy invasion by Facebook app providers.
A more general feeling is that Facebook is reaching its IPO at an inflexion point where mobile web access has become more important than desktop.
Since Facebook was not a born a mobile company, the perception is that it isn’t putting enough emphasis on mobile development.
What is the overall purpose or direction of Facebook and does the wizard know thy self or is he in search of his true self through Facebook with society along as passengers.
Who Should Be Worried?
Facebook is beginning the conversation and looking to the public to answer these questions. Companies who offer poor customer service, companies that are involved in deceptive practices, and companies with little to no online presence should be worried.
Small businesses are fighting for consumer dollars and are positioned to connect one on one with the customer’s within their community. Does the success of several promotional campaigns targeting small business have larger implications?
There is no doubt that due to the recession, large corporations have taken away people’s jobs by via outsourcing, all-but stopped re-investing within the community, continued to raise prices while consumers earn less, and even have done away with “perks” such as refunds and special offers.
As consumers, when is enough, enough? Facebook is beginning the conversation to answer these questions.
Will companies with significant loyalty rewards programs and who care about their customers win out over all?
Does the Facebook Graph give way to smaller, local businesses because of the strong ties small businesses have to the community.
How It Works
Facebook Graph Search functions by providing search results that take into consideration a person’s search history and provides results that are relevant to your network.
Users will be able to search for specific terms about their social network; Zuckerberg gives the example “Who are my friends in San Francisco?”
Essentially, you will be able to filter search results by asking a question, creating your own filter parameters.
The search delivers entirely personalized results based on your social network’s likes and preferences. The search is in early beta with no immediate plans to monetize, but that is certainly in the works.
The ability to discover new restaurants your friends like in Philadelphia or to see pictures taken in your next vacation spot is an obvious benefit, but seeing results for “single people who work nearby” might be a little creepy for some.
Today’s consumer is finding out about new products, styles, and trends online – from friends, brands, and influencers.
Likewise, the shopping experience has turned into one that is connected as consumers are using mobile devices while shopping. However, are Americans individualistic in nature or collectivist in nature?
Today’s youth is all about individualism, yet still susceptible to collectivist buying behaviors. For Mark Zuckerberg who is always assessing social behaviorism, will this be Facebook’s overall failure? How influenced are individuals by others?
What This Means For SEO
Search engine optimization for Facebook is nothing new – in fact, it has been part of the overall SEO strategy for years. What is new, however, is the overall implication that Facebook likes, shares, and posts from friends will have on search results and how it may or may not influence buying decisions.
Will Facebook take over the search market? Facebook has already begun to erode a portion of Google’s search market.
The number of searches done on search engines in the U.S. dropped by 3% in 2012, according to a new report from ComScore, even though the number of people searching increased by 4%.
Google, in particular, saw the number of searches decline by 2% last year.
How far will Facebook go in taking over search, no one knows. However what we do know is the Google has purchased patents within the last six years and hired engineers whose focus is on data collection and the use of mobile devices to target in on a searchers location.
Local businesses now need to create content that is aimed at promoting social shares and likes, and targeting messages to key social influencers who will be able to spread the message about your brand.
Things Your Small Business Should Be Doing Today to Prepare
- Make sure that your Facebook page is optimized for Facebook search.
- Build campaigns which increase number of likes in a more natural way. “Likes” becomes significantly more important–since search will begin with people connected to Pages, the more people liking your Page means more people connected and thus the higher frequency of showing in search results. But how can you move beyond the like and empower your audience to move from the like to become self-promoters of your business?
- Make sure form fields are filled out properly–for your business Page, ensure each field is filled out with the relevant, properly-formatted information. Don’t try to create your own sub-category, follow the standards. Don’t put text into phone number fields. Facebook should be pulling lots of data from these fields, and the people who are filling out the forms should be specific to locations surrounding your business.
- For the open-ended text in description fields, write copy that includes keywords, as if you’re writing copy for Google to “crawl”.
- Tag your photos with locations, such as your business, and dates—there may be opportunity here to create searchable product catalogs so make sure your products are featured on your social pages.
- Tag your photos with a Page name –Assuming Facebook treats a photo where Advertising Agency is tagged similarly to how it treats a tagged human, then “Show me photos of Advertising Agencies” would show photos tagged with Stream Advertising Agency. Slightly different than tagging location.
- Reach out and target key influencers to add your business to their “Places” and increase “Likes.” Building niche social networks to share your content with could help you gain a lot of SEO exposure.
- Create campaigns which promote “check-ins” at the business location and mobile use.
- If you don’t have a customer loyalty program, build it now in 4-D. This means building a loyalty program based on the type of customer, their spend level, location, and overall brand sentiment.
- Explore Opportunities to Co-Brand or Cross Promote: there is an immense opportunity to connect with fans by offering a contest to win Amazon credit or even a sponsored book. These connections exist for businesses of every size, and are a great way to discover meaningful opportunities for your brand.
- Create campaigns which promote mobile use. Mobile usage has built in GPS with location-specific information and agencies are collecting information to follow consumers on the street level. Does someone stop in to purchase a coffee and then go directly across the street to purchase a sandwich – and if so, can you offer the sandwich to your menu and increase profit? This is just an example of the future possibilities that comes from consumer market research based on mobile tracking of location and behavior.
Additional Impact for Small Businesses
Small and medium-sized businesses in the eCommerce space often are not able to spend as much money as larger corporations on market research. As a result, it can be difficult to stay on top of the web design elements your customers respond most favorably to on their favorite retailers’ websites.
Why not use Graph Search to pinpoint key information about your customer’s behaviors? A quick search of fans of your brand will quickly reveal the places they also shop.
Take note of the brand messaging of these companies, the colors they use, the images, and the layouts, and the language to identify best practices from successful web retailers and apply them to your brand.
The Facebook Graph offers a cost-effective way to improve conversion and customer retention.
Knowledge is power and the Facebook Graph will offer a lot of information.
Go to http://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch and sign-up to get into the beta so you can start exploring it ASAP.
If you have more questions about Graph Search and social media marketing, please leave them in the comment box below.