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By now, you may be aware of the big news from the world of social media: Facebook formally announced Facebook Graph Search on Tuesday.  Facebook Graph Search is the social media network’s attempt at jumping full-scale into the world of search.  There’s been plenty of pontificating in the last 24 hours about whether or not this product will work, if it is a good idea and whether or not they can succeed.  And while there’s a lot of merit to following those discussions, I wanted to take a different approach: what does Facebook Graph Search mean for your business?

What is Facebook Graph Search?

Facebook has long been recognized as the significant player in the world of social media.  In many ways, Facebook defined the way we think of social media today.  Many of their reported more than 1 billion users post photos, status updates, videos, comments andwhat facebook graph search means for your business more to the network on a regular basis.  Up until now, that information has stayed fairly tight within your connections on Facebook (called the social graph).  There is a search box at the top of the page, but it was mostly used to find people and pages.  It worked, but it didn’t really tap into the wealth of data that Facebook had amassed from its users.  Until now.

Facebook Graph Search is Facebook’s attempt to take all of the connections within your network, the “likes,” recommendations, photos and more and make that searchable.  Using Facebook Graph Search, you will be able to conduct a search to find a certain type of restaurant, service provider, recreational activity and more that your friends within your network have used.  For example, if you want to know the best company to build a fence around your backyard, you can user Facebook Graph Search to ask that question and find out if any of your friends have liked, rated or shared content from a local fence builder.

Facebook Graph Search and Your Business

As you can see in the fence builder example above, there’s a lot of potential for businesses to gain increased exposure inside of Facebook (I also see two concerns with Facebook Graph Search, which I’ve noted below).  So, how can a business take advantage of Facebook Graph Search?  Below are three items to consider:

1. Make certain you have a Facebook page for your business.  At this point, you should already have a Facebook page for your business.  If you don’t, create one right away.  Facebook is too large a social network for you to not have a presence on it.  Additionally, if you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, you likely won’t show up in any Facebook Graph Search results.  Creating a page is fast and fairly straightforward.  If you are unsure of what you’re doing, contact Dijital Farm and we’ll be happy to help with the process.

2. Share content frequently and engage with your fans. Facebook Graph Search will focus on your page’s relationship with your fans.  If your fans talk about you frequently, engage with you often and respond to your page posts, then you will be well on your way to circulating well inside Facebook Graph Search.  How can you get started?  Take a look at what your business has to share and begin putting it out there.  Do you have interesting photos of products?  Post them.  Have customers shared a status update that they tagged your business in?  Re-share it with your fans.  Got a great video?  Put it out there.  Facebook, like most social media networks, requires that you build an audience and cultivate a relationship with them.  Facebook Graph Search feeds on those relationships.

3. Ask your fans to recommend your business.  This is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest part of building a community on Facebook.  You have fans (customers) that like your business.  They purchase your products, use your services and enjoy visiting your store.  Yet many business owners I’ve worked with are hesitant to ask customers to publicly recommend them online because they fear what the customer says may not be good or may be taken out of context.  While those concerns are somewhat valid, here’s the bottom line: the businesses that succeed online are those that ask for recommendations.  The reason is simple: friends follow recommendations from their friends.  This is why we ask for feedback from friends before we try a new restaurant, use a new house painter or purchase a new car.  Facebook Graph Search, as we undersand it right now, will make strong use of recommendations in how it answers search queries.  So, start asking your customers to recommend you on Facebook.  You’ll be glad you did when those recommendations begin showing inside Facebook Graph Search.

Two Concerns About Facebook Graph Search

For all the promise and potential that Facebook Graph Search seems to hold, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer up two concerns that I have about the new service.  If these concerns prove to be true, it could hamper the adoption of Facebok Graph Search or, at the very least, make it difficult for businesses of all size to be fairly and accurately represented in the search results.

1. Can Facebook convince users to break the Google habit for searching?  This is a tough one.  Google has been around longer than Facebook and search is its bread and butter.  When we have a question we don’t know the answer to, we “Google” it.  Changing user behavior is not always as simple as building a better mousetrap.  It takes a lot to convince someone to stop doing something they’ve done for so long and go in a completely different direction.  If Facebook can’t convince its users to switch its search patterns away from Google and over to Facebook, then Facebook Graph Search will just be another nice feature inside of Facebook.

2. Can business fan pages increase their exposure to their Facebook fans in a low or no cost way?  A while back, I posed the question: Is Facebook Intentionally Hurting Businesses?  The theme of the post dealt with the (seemingly) decreased exposure that business fan pages were getting to their fan base as a result of an algorithm change inside of Facebook.  This algorithm change coincided with Facebook’s latest offering to allow businesses to pay a fee to increase the exposure of their posts.  While there are some legitimate concerns about whether or not this is a good idea, I’m very concerned about the ramifications in Facebook Graph Search for a business that doesn’t “pay to play.”  For example, in our fence building company example from above, what if that business doesn’t pay to increase the exposure of its posts?  It will see less circulation of its content among its fans, which could reduce the interaction (sharing/commenting/liking) by those fans, which could in turn mean that the business won’t show as well (or maybe even at all) in Facebook Graph Search.  This could create a scenario where only the companies with deep pockets are well represented in Graph Search.  Which brings us right back to Google.  Google was started because the co-founders felt there was a better way to index the Web and organize content as opposed to the pay-to-play options that existed in the late 90s.

Should these concerns stop your company’s participation in Facebook?  No, especially if the bulk of your customers participates in the network.  I recommend taking a long, hard look at your company’s social media strategy right away to see what you can do to increase interaction with your brand on Facebook.  Those that don’t will definitely run the risk of being left behind inside Facebook Graph Search.  But then again, I’d also recommend that you make certain to check out Google Plus, too! :)