Big changes are on the way for how brands interact with customers on Facebook, following the announcement of the social media giant's new Graph Search. The search facility will be different from Google's in that it is internally-focused, so each user will see search results from their own networks as well as public content. For example, if someone searches for "Photos of New York," their friends' photos will be displayed above public content, so searches are personalized to the individual.
We're going to look at what this means for bands, and how they can make Graph Search work for them.
- Plan your social media strategy now. Graph Search may still be in its infancy but its potential is huge. Search results will be ranked by interaction and as more Facebook users turn to Facebook Search to find brands and businesses that are recommended by their networks, getting those all-important "likes" and shares is going to be vital. It is worth thinking about your social media strategy now to plan how you are going to use Facebook to reach your audience and engage fans.
- Getting the right sort of "likes." If your core demographic is urban students, you may find that going after "likes" from older rural dwellers is a waste of effort. Networks are often like-minded, meaning that students are often friends with other students. Targeting your demographic specifically means that you will reach new audiences of like-minded people, and potentially engage new customers.
- Encouraging responses. It's great to share information on your brand's Facebook feed, but it's even better to encourage interaction such as commenting, "likes," and shares. Asking questions, rewarding sharing and liking, and encouraging conversations with customers are all good ways of increasing interaction, which means your page will do better in search results. Turn your broadcast into a conversation and watch your search rankings soar.
- Learn about customers. Social Graph is going to be a great resource for marketers wanting to learn more about their customers. The potential demographic information available is staggering; brands will be able to learn what other brands and interests their fans "like," where they live, their age, genders, and educational backgrounds. The more "likes" you have as a company, the more market research you have available to you.
- Think local. As Facebook users come to rely more on Graph Search to get recommendations based on their friends' interests, brands with local outlets are going to want to work hard to get the social media message through at every level of the business: it won't just be the role of the marketing department any more. If potential customers are looking for a restaurant, a new car, a coffee, or a pair of jeans, their choice of outlet is going to depend increasingly on where their friends go. Encouraging a brand's Facebook interaction in-store is going to become the front line of marketing and customer growth into the future. The brands who streamline this process early are going to be off to a flying start in the search results once Graph Search rolls out across the globe.
Developing a more sophisticated Facebook strategy will be well worth the investment for brands. Graph Search may only be in its beta testing phase in the U.S., but with the sheer amount of data available on Facebook's one billion users you can bet that social searching is going to be increasingly important over time. Brands will need to evolve with these changes to work on meaningful customer interaction if they are going to get the most out of this new feature as it develops.