Facebook Graph Search: What should brands do about it?
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Facebook Graph Search: What should brands do about it?

New York City : NY : USA | Feb 01, 2013 at 8:39 AM PST
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Ryan Mack

Facebook’s Graph Search was announced only a few weeks ago, but the new feature has already sent the marketing world into a tizzy. The tool, which allows Facebook users to search for information within the social network itself, has been greeted with a lot of interest, with users eager to try it out and see what it can do for them. From finding new friends to getting recommendations on places to check out, Graph Search is expected to be a complete re-imagination of the search experience.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t talk much about the possible applications of Graph Search in advertising when he launched the new tool, but Graph Search seems to have a lot of potential in that sector. It’s only a matter of time until this Facebook feature begins to see several practical implementations for brands and businesses, and, as a result, they will need to start including Graph Search in their advertising and marketing strategies.

To learn more about Graph Search and its applications for marketers, I talked with Ryan Mack, director of strategy at Carrot Creative, a New York-based social media agency. Carrot, whose clients include Target, Disney, MTV and others, calls itself a “digital innovator” that helps brands create better interactive media experiences for their customers. (For those who may remember, Carrot’s Nick Perold and Adam Katzenback were the judges of the Target Social TV & Video Challenge at ad:tech New York last fall.)

Mack leads Carrot’s strategy and analytics team, focusing on consumer engagement and how companies and brands can best use social media to reach their business goals. “Social has gone from being a novelty to a utility and a necessity for brands trying to forge relationships with their consumers,” Mack says. “It's important to try and not get caught up in the bright, shiny object, but instead focus on what we can do in social to help reach our clients’ business objectives.”

Excerpts from our interview:

Starting off with the most obvious question: what’s your opinion on Facebook Graph Search? Do you see inherent advantages in Graph Search when it comes to advertising and marketing for brands?

As a marketer, I think we're all very excited, if not cautiously optimistic. Excited because this has the opportunity to change the Facebook experience as we know it and create even stronger connections between people and businesses than ever before. Also a bit cautious because it's introducing a new behavior that Facebook users aren't really used to and there's an inherent learning curve when introducing products like this. Oh, and we can't forget about the issue of privacy, which is inevitable.

For brands and companies that are already on Facebook, what do you think they should be doing to make sure that Graph Search works for them? There’s already been quite some debate on whether companies should clamor for “likes” on their pages—how do you think Graph Search is going to relate to this?

For starters, having updated information on your page - About, Location, etc. If Graph Search is to be a main tenet of the Facebook experience, then it's imperative for brands to be not only present, but also discoverable. For better or worse, discoverability will be defined by page “likes” and engagement. How you procure those “likes,” shares, comments, etc. is up to the brand, but it's no secret that Facebook will reward those brands who put an emphasis on paid media to go along with their earned approach.

Consistency will also be taken into account, so brands need to keep their communities engaged throughout the course of the year or be surpassed by competitors who do. The biggest impact Open Graph will have off the bat is on local businesses. For these businesses, engagement on branded content is still important, but there's an added focus on check-ins, recommendations, ratings and photos. Look for Facebook Places (or perhaps other check-in applications) to increase in importance in coming months.

Assuming Graph Search sticks around for awhile, Graph Search optimization will be a very real need in the future - especially as Facebook continues to tinker and tweak it. It's important to have someone who has their finger on the pulse and is keeping track of the algorithm.

In a blog post by your colleague RG Logan, he mentioned that thanks to Graph Search, sponsored results on Facebook could now see an increase in importance. Could you go into a little more detail on that--should advertisers now pay more attention to Facebook ads?

Just like the traditional search engines that came before it, Graph Search will eventually be monetized. Yes, this is a tool for the Facebook user, but don't think Mark Zuckerberg built a product this big without understanding how it can add to his bottom line. Over time, Facebook will start to collect a lot of very rich intent-laden search data and will be able to charge brands for prime real estate as a sponsored result.

Currently, in the pre-Graph Search search bar, brands can pay to be a sponsored result, but targeting is still suspect. For example, when I type in "fitness," I get "Entertainment for XBox" as a result, which isn't exactly what I was looking for. Aside from sponsored results, as I mentioned before, advertisers should consider making paid media an integral part of their social strategy, rather than a nice-to-have.

Learn more about Carrot Creative by checking out their website here.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest, longest-running digital marketing and technology event. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.

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Facebook Graph Search: what's all the hoopla about? (Photo via Flickr codemastersnake)
Aby Sam Thomas is based in New York, New York, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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