Anyone who is active on Facebook knows that search has never been one of Facebook’s strong points. You can find friends if you know how to spell their name. You can find company brand pages if you know what you’re looking for. But what if you want to find a list of all of your friends who are connected to a specific company, product or place? You couldn’t until now.
Enter Graph Search
Graph search is Facebook’s social solution for connected search. It is a search algorithm that delivers results based on connecting the dots in the mountains of data Facebook has collected from its billion users. Results are served up based on relevancy and relationship rather than keywords.
So what does this mean for your Facebook brand page? It means it’s time for businesses to get social, and I do mean social. Stop broadcasting and start engaging. Relevancy is key and engagement is crucial.
Yes, you heard me, Likes matter. I know, I know, my mantra used to be “Likes aren’t Loves,” but my new mantra is “Likes make you relevant,” which is just one of the important pillars in the Graph Search algorithm.
Case in point, earlier this year I was debating on buying a GoPro camera for my Spring Break vacation with my kids, and the first thing I did was turn to Facebook and search for “friends who like GoPro”. Turns out that 21 of my Facebook friends Like the GoPro brand page so I went directly to them to ask for a product review. And if I wanted to take the search even further I could have searched for “friends of friends who like GoPro,” or even “people who like GoPro.”
Graph Search Rewards Relevancy
But Likes aren’t the only thing that will bring you up in my search results. According to Facebook, Graph Search rewards relevancy, which can be determined by my personal connection with, physical proximity to, and level of engagement with what I’m searching for. If I search for “coffee” I should not get the same results that you do, and that’s the point. My results should be stacked based on:
- Coffee pages that have the most Likes
- Coffee pages I have Liked
- Coffee pages I have engaged with (i.e. commented on a post on their page)
- Coffee companies or shops located near me
- Coffee pages or coffee-related brands that my friends and friends-of-friends Like
I wanted to test this theory so I did a small experiment with a handful of friends and colleagues who have the Facebook Graph Search Beta enabled. We all entered the following search strings into Graph Search and then compared results:
- “Coffee shops my friends like”
- “Coffee shops near me”
- “Stumptown Coffee in Portland”
The search for “Coffee shops my friends like,” and “Coffee shops near me” were predictable and accurate. The search for “Stumptown Coffee in Portland” returned results for Stumptown Coffee shops and places that served Stumptown Coffee, which is what I would expect. However, the search results seemed a bit random for the generic “coffee” search in that my top search result was actually a person in Missouri using her brand page for her coffee business. Plus I have no connection to her, her friends, or Missouri! So, the algorithm still needs a little work, but that’s why it’s still in Beta.
Graph Search will be a gold mine for targeted Facebook ads and sponsored search results, especially for local businesses. Facebook has not released much information yet on what kinds of advertising opportunities will be offered, but based on some tests I did I can tell you that I was served a few “Sponsored Results” and some small ads inserted between search results.
Graph Search Optimization (GSO)
I know what you’re thinking. Where do I start? The good news is that Graph Search is still in Beta so you have some time to get your arms around how to optimize your brand pages to maximize your appearance in search results.
It’s difficult to predict how the algorithm will change over the next few months, but for now I can offer you these tips.
- Provide quality content that is relevant to your target audience.
- Drive engagement by posting high resolution images or videos with questions to your Facebook wall (questions and images drive engagement)
- Increase Likes by “Like Gating” valuable content and contests on app pages
- If you are a global or national brand with local outlets claim your local “Locations” and encourage brand fans to check in.
- Encourage local outlets to create their own local pages in order to show up in the searches for “…near me.”
Personally, I love the new Graph Search. I’m very active on Facebook so it’s likely that search results served to me will be highly accurate and targeted to who I am on Facebook. But therein lies the rub. The “Facebook Me” is the silver lining of the real me. She only Likes brand pages that she’s willing to be public about, she doesn’t post status updates about things she wouldn’t mind publicly declaring on the front page of the New York Times, and she speaks in third person.