Marketers are scrambling for information about the feature, which is being rolled out slowly to users in the U.S. who signed up for early access. To help demystify Graph Search and what it means for marketers, Marketing spoke to Max Kalehoff, Syncapse’s vice-president of product marketing, who will speak on a panel about the feature at SXSW.
Do you expect Graph Search will be a big topic at SXSW?
Mark Zuckerberg positioned Graph Search as a “pillar” alongside Timeline and News Feed. This was a carefully orchestrated announcement with lots of buzz. While this is a significant addition to the world’s largest social network, the new feature is still in beta. Similar to Facebook engineers developing the feature, users – including digital insiders at SXSW – are in a test-and-discovery mode. Consequently, there will be underlying pontification and chatter about the feature and how it may change the social network, including how people and brands manage their presence.
The redesigned FB pages for businesses in search results look a lot like a Yelp or Google local business listing, but with extra information from friends. What implications do these new pages have for brands?
Graph Search will create even richer Facebook consumer profile data. As Google has proven, search is among the most powerful databases of intentions. A successful search product will enrich Facebook’s already robust database of consumer profiles — adding intention to the existing mix of demographics, interests and social connections.
It will also connect, surface and create more meaning for the historical Facebook Social Graph database. Today, the value of your “likes” and behaviors on Facebook lives in the now. Graph Search would increase relevance for things you’ve done in the past, such as “like” a restaurant, attend a concert, or purchase a certain automobile.
It will make Facebook more important for geographically-based businesses, by making Facebook relevant at the point of decision and purchase. Think of the local retailers or services businesses for which you normally ask friends for advice. Or once at your local Costco, think of the brands and products for which you seek recommendations.
How soon do you expect Facebook to sell ad words or other search products for Graph Search?
Facebook often surprises us with major innovations, so only Facebook can provide guidance on the release of its products. This beta period is undoubtedly important as Facebook refines the experience, increases adoption, collects data and surfaces the aspects that work well.
If the brands with the most “likes” will be pushed to the top of Graph Search results, should social marketers be taking a serious look at their fan count?
It is unlikely that Facebook would fully disclose the method or algorithm for ranking search results, because doing so would enable companies to game the system and artificially inflate results. However, we believe that the volume and quality of the investment marketers make into Facebook overall will have a corresponding impact on their presence and performance. This is where tactics like buying cheap, irrelevant or fake fans could back to haunt a brand.
Graph Search illuminates intent – it shows what users are looking for and thus suggests what they might purchase. How does this change the dialogue between brands and users on the network?
As Google has proven, search is among the most powerful databases of intentions. It would be quite a feat for Facebook Graph Search to near the success of Google. Nonetheless, a successful search product will enrich Facebook’s already robust database of consumer profiles — adding intention to the existing mix of demographics, interests and social connections.
Facebook is diversifying quickly. With the news feed, timeline and graph search, where should marketers focus their attention?
Marketers should think about Facebook in two ways. First, it is a high-scale marketing channel in which marketers can establish a presence, interact with and message to consumers across paid, owned and earned media – on a hyper-targeted, even one-to-one basis. Second, it is a robust consumer profile database that can radically fortify a marketer’s understanding of its consumers and distinct segments — within social channels, but beyond to other media. Ultimately, Facebook creates a powerful channel and data source in which marketers can more effectively achieve their goals around reach, frequency and brand impact. Marketers need to understand how the various features and components interact and contribute to these holistic brand goals.
What should marketers do going forward?
Brand marketers are still figuring out Facebook — it’s early in the evolution. Yet there’s no question its power and scale has created a seminal marketing platform. Facebook’s ongoing product innovation and experimentation in Graph Search is further evidence of this.
According to Facebook, Graph Search will roll out slowly, as Facebook is experimenting and watching privacy carefully. Therefore, marketers do not need to rush out and act decisively. There is no first mover advantage yet. However, this is a critical time for observing and experimenting. Be sensitive to your early social adopters in your brand’s social graph.
Second, brand marketers must establish more fluency in search marketing. Being in the business of brand marketing — not direct sales or direct response — brand teams typically have not prioritized search. Social marketing has already called for marketers and their agencies to break down functional silos, as paid, earned and owned media have become closely linked. Facebook Graph Search means that marketers not only need to harness social, but search as well.