Facebook Graph Search and the opportunities for marketing

The tech world waited with bated breath for Mark Zuckerberg to unveil the new addition to Facebook -- Graph Search. Taking its name from the 'social graph' of people's online connections, Graph Search enables users to search for information within Facebook. It's currently a U.S.-only limited release and as yet there's no date planned to roll it out in the UK. But if or when we do see it implemented in the UK, what impact will it have for brands?

First of all, no-one really knows how consumers will react to this new function -- the tool itself relies on users adopting a new Facebook behavior (i.e using the search tool to find things you're interested in). Users have adapted to the majority of changes Facebook has made to the site over the years but there's no guarantee that the same will happen for Graph Search.

If it does succeed, 'likes' could become much more valuable for those businesses with brand pages as they will help those brands to appear more often in users' searches. For example, if one of your Facebook friends likes a VW dealer and you then search for 'car dealerships my friends like,' VW is more likely to appear in the results. The more likes a brand has, the more momentum Graph Search will build around it.

If Graph Search (GS) works and is integrated into the Bing/Yahoo! search product, we could see paid-for results appear, as well as an organic set of results from your query (stuff liked by your mates) you'd see paid terms from brands who want to reach you. For page admins there will also be the option to use the search facility to find out more about their brand's Facebook fans which will then help them create more relevant content. This will benefit Facebook users by giving them content they want to see, which will then in turn benefit brands by boosting the levels of Facebook engagement.

The impact of GS on retail brands is also potentially interesting because 'likes' and check-ins for local stores could help boost them in consumers' searches for local shops and services liked by their network. This will strengthen the already powerful effect of peer-to-peer recommendations by sharing these insights with more people.

Once we've seen the beta results from the U.S., we'll get a clearer view of the importance of the topics and content brands most closely linked with, which will force many to re-think their current strategies to ensure that they're associating with the right kind of topics. Even more so than now, strategies will need to target improving engagement and brands will need to keep content hyper relevant in order to boost likes and engagement and appear in bigger numbers of more relevant results. Will Graph Search be a hit or will it be another innovation to fall by the wayside? Only time will tell, but it's a journey that brands should definitely be keeping an eye on.