Facebook Graph Search, announced last week, promises to help people discover connections between their friends and places, photos or things they’re searching for - making search more social.
It won’t replace web search, but it’s a great chance for SMEs to be found online. Read on to find out how to make the most of it…
How Facebook Graph Search works
Instead of searching for, say, the best places to eat or drink in an area and getting thousands of results, users will be able to filter based on their friends' recommendations. Facebook will pull this data straight from photos, location-based updates, likes and profile information (something Mark Zuckerberg likes to call his ‘social database’).
Why you should care
Simply put, all this increasing interconnectivity can expand your online reach, even for a small business. While you might not make it to the top page of Google, you could show up in Facebook’s search results if you have a lot of influential fans.
What Graph Search does is tap into the power of recommendations. And that's a pretty powerful thing as people trust what their friends tell them more than an advert. For an SME providing a great service to happy customers but can’t afford paid advertising, that’s great news.
She envisages a future where businesses can search for people interested in buying their products, so a plumber in Kent can find people looking for a plumber in Kent.
But Facebook is bound to want to monetise all this data, so sponsored ads are expected to pop up in search results in the future.
How to use Facebook to win (and keep) business
For SMEs without sizeable ad budgets, social media is the perfect way to get a global web presence with no financial investment (although you'll have to invest your time). Here are a few key things any small business can do on your Facebook profile:
Get more likes
Getting likes will increase your chances of showing up in Facebook Graph Search results. Even if the person who liked your page never buys from you, their friend might.
Maximise your chances of getting as many likes as possible by sharing your Facebook profile at every opportunity: on your website, email signatures, printed on your stationery or displayed around your shop. And run the odd competition to encourage people to like your page for the chance to win a prize - it doesn’t have to be big, for example if you run a coffee shop you could offer a free coffee every week to one person who's liked your page.
People can search for places their friends have visited and checked in to, so get as many check-ins as possible by offering incentives.
Optimise your content for search
Make sure the content you’re posting can be found easily by tagging photos and putting as much information in your profile as possible.
Post great content
It’s not clear what will determine which results go to the top of the page, but Kevin Newman has suggested on the Econsultancy blog that it might be the weight of a piece of content - i.e. how many likes, shares and comments it has. And the better your content, the more chance you have of earning a like.
It’s hard to put a finger on what makes good Facebook content, but brands that are open about their culture (like Innocent Smoothies) and post helpful, funny, informative or even provocative content with lots of photos tend to get the best reactions.
Facebook is under pressure to deliver for investors, especially with news that it lost 600,000 UK users in December alone. Their share prices dropped after the announcement, but it’s too soon to tell how actual Facebook users will react.
The key is to not keep your eggs in just one basket. Have a Facebook presence, but make sure you stick with your SEO efforts to rank highly on Google and consider other popular social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
What will you do to adjust to Facebook Graph Search, if anything? Do you think it's good news for SMEs?