Facebook Graph Search: Still searching for the impact?
Still chewing on the Facebook Graph Search announcement? You’re not alone. My colleagues Mike McGuire, Andrew Frank, Brian Blau and I spent a chunk of time debriefing the announcement late last week. Obviously there’s already been a great deal written by the press about what this means for privacy….what this means for search competitors…what this means for Facebook shareholders. What we’re concerned about is what this means for the companies who leverage Facebook as part of how they reach and engage customers every day.
Looking into the immediate future, the limited release of Facebook Graph Search is unlikely to add many items to most organizations’ to-do lists. It should, however, put follow-up flags on your calendars around the following topics:
Advertising: No question, organizations will want to take a fresh look at Facebook advertising options in the coming year. With such limited rollout, it’s unlikely that near-term 2013 ad plans will change, but as ad opportunities shift, and as increased ad targeting options are revealed, organizations will need to re-assess their decisions whether or not to invest (or how to invest) in Facebook advertising. The story is certain to unfold further from here, but for now, it makes sense to put a note out to your agency, or whoever does your ad buying, that you’re interested in accounting for why Facebook ads are (or not) being used as part of your future campaigns.
Engagement: Showing up in search rankings is a function of an organization’s penetration into the Facebook user base. Search results reflect likes received and overall user engagement, not to mention the profile information provided by the company. If someone is searching for “Pizza places my friends like in Ann Arbor,” then there’s some benefit to making sure that your local address is reflected in the company page. There’s also some benefit to making sure people are linking to your page, through likes, check-ins, post engagement, and similar. Content strategy has always been important, but the degree to which Graph Search starts to reflect the reach and active connectedness of an organization’s base, there is certainly going to be increased attention paid towards optimizing page content and programs.
Mobile: The short answer is that Facebook Graph Search is not yet available on the mobile platform. But of course, that’s just the short answer. There’s been a great deal written about Facebook’s struggles finding paths to monetization of its mobile traffic via ads. Certainly, the recent refresh of the mobile app was an important step forward. But the Facebook Graph Search announcement lacked any indication of a continued path of mobile progress. The announcement that the Search beta would only be available via desktop browsers left us all reflecting on the ‘interesting’ gap evident in a company’s repeated emphasis on improving and leveraging its mobile strategy post-IPO, and a failure to offer key functionality on a mobile platform. There’s no question that when the mobile part of this story is told, companies who have dragged their feet in responding to initial indicators will be called to action, as there is an incredibly high correlation between mobile searches executed, and customer actions taken. Updates on this topic could come at any time, but for now, Siri says you can safely hit “snooze.”
Application Development: Just as you would want to start going out for a jog before signing up for the Chicago Marathon, there is definite merit to building whatever familiarity you can with Graph Search before its widespread rollout. Want to understand the user experience better? Sign up for the trial. Are you generally on the forefront of Facebook application development? Consider what you would need to do to get early developer access. Do what you can to get some early “reps” with Graph Search, and you’ll quickly start to form some opinions on how it is going to impact your own programs.
There’s time before Graph Search goes “prime time.” And while it may be frustrating not to have complete access today, thank Facebook for the opportunity to do a little thinking before the playing field begins to change. Think about your current presence and the objectives you have for your Facebook program, and it will become fairly apparent how Graph Search can help you achieve those objectives. In the meantime, be patient —this fuse could be a slow burn.