Introduction to Facebook Graph Search

January 29, 2013 | By George Murphy | Filed in: Facebook Graph Search for Attorneys.

Graph Search – The New and Improved Google?

Facebook recently announced the launch of a beta version of their new search tool “Graph Search.” You knew it had to be coming. With over 10% of the world’s population as members, FB is sitting on a mountain of content and the challenge will be how they sort and present that data as a response to a plain language search.

And right now they will admit that they aren’t certain just how that’s going to shape up.

However, the potential for this project could be huge for businesses particularly those that thrive on referred leads…like your law practice. The difference between content indexed in Google and that which Facebook calls its own is the FB data is exclusively “social content” meaning content that has been endorsed or “liked” by members.

Word of Mouth Gets Ready to Take a Giant Leap

Can you beat personal referrals as a source of leads? Not hardly. That lead has been pre-sold to some extent by the referring source and is far easier to convert into a client than a lead coming from other sources. The whole idea behind Graph Search is to find something that your “friends” “like.”

For example in the beta version you can look for an Italian restaurant in Portland and it will return lists of Italian eateries in Portland that friends have patronized and were so impressed they pressed “like” on the restaurant’s FB page or the “like” icon on the restaurant’s website. It’s rather like a Yelp listing except all the reviews are by people you know. Now if the searcher only has 8 friends this tool isn’t going to be all that helpful. However the average FB member has 300 friends and many have 1,000 or more.

Imagine a person who is just involved in a serious auto accident reaching for his or her smart phone and searching FB for a personal injury attorney in Cleveland. The results provided are not anonymous links like Google they are links that have been socially validated. That could be the game changer in the search industry.

Graph Search Has a Ways to Go

Graph (which is marketing shorthand for demographic) in its beta form is pretty limited. Currently it can search for images, places and people but that’s just the beginning. Roughly 1,000 Facebook members and others have been invited to test it and it will take some time to learn just how the experience works and how the beta testers use it.

Even then there will be challenges to integrate links, videos and other elements into the searchable database. Lastly will be the ability to make Graph Search mobile and that’s where the action really will be.

Even in its infancy some on Wall Street are taking it seriously. The day after the Graph Search announcement Yelp’s stock took a 7% loss. Yelp is an obvious target but so are all the dating sites and local centric operations like 4Square. And of course there’s the mother of all search engines Google.

There is however one potentially huge problem for Graph Search and that revolves around the privacy of Facebook members. The typical user does not understand the bifurcated privacy settings that FB has established. They may think that they are limiting their activity on FB but what happens when their content shows up on a Graph Search conducted by one of the other 999,999,999 members? FB management is going to have to be proactive espousing privacy concerns while at the same time extolling the benefits of sharing an opinion. That might be like walking a tight rope over the Hoover Dam. Pray for no wind.

How Do You Take Advantage of Graph Today

The short answer is you don’t. It’s not ready for prime time. But your firm can be proactive and jack up the engagement not only on your FB page but on all social media platforms. The objective is to provide content that will encourage and is worthy of the “like” button.

The more likes you have from the more members increases the odds of your targeted keyword pieces being picked up in Graph. Simply put, the bigger the population you have of members who like some part of your content the better positioned you’ll be when Graph reaches maturity. And this engagement exercise isn’t going to hurt you in the near run either.

Graph is coming. Graph will be the advertising salvation for Facebook so you know it will be a reality at some point. Preparing for it by stepping up your social media campaign will certainly not hurt you but may very well put you in a very competitive position when the product becomes a staple for every FB member.

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