Marketers wrestle with Facebook's Graph search

Tool could prove a powerful ally in steering people towards products and services but what impact will it have on brands?

Facebook's Graph Search could be a powerful tool for steering people toward products and services on the social networking site, and marketers are starting to wrestle with the impact it may have on their brands.

Graph Search allows users to perform searches that let them uncover things their friends have shared with them on Facebook. It can also help them discover things like popular restaurants or shops in their area, based on what their friends have liked or talked about.

Marketers hope the results will help them make more connections with potential customers and become more visible on the site. But there are still a lot of unknowns that need to be addressed, speakers said during a panel discussion at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas on 8 March.

One issue is that users can "like" things for a variety of reasons, such as simply being polite, and can check in at places just because they happen to be there, not necessarily because they like the place. That could mislead marketers and other Facebook users about what is truly popular.

Other metrics, therefore, should be incorporated into Graph Search's results, they said.

"If the results aren't helpful because the only people coming up are the people getting the most Likes, it's not going to be helpful for anything," said Paul DeJarnatt, vice-president and search director at Starcom USA, a marketing and branding agency.

Others said it's hard to use Graph Search as a way to assess their level of engagement with fans or customers, because the service is still in beta and at the moment only a small fraction of users have access to it -- on the order of hundreds of thousands - and some marketing professionals haven't been able to try it yet either.

"The first thing is we haven't had it, and the fact that it's in beta makes it almost non-existent," said Natanya Anderson, director of social media at Whole Foods. "We have nothing to play with now."

For Graph Search to be effective in steering people toward brands and places, it first has to gain credibility among consumers and deliver useful results, speakers agreed. One way to make the results more credible and useful, they suggested, might be by applying a more sophisticated scoring algorithm so that weaker results based on only one or two metrics are not displayed so prominently.

"Social input and recommendation has its limits," said Darren McColl, vice-president of global brand strategy at SapientNitro. "As much as I love Whole Foods, I don't need to know 15 of my friends also love Whole Foods," he said.

"I would really like a measure that would help us say, 'This is relevant to me,' and a 'Like' button is not that," agreed Whole Foods' Anderson.

Facebook is in fact working on this idea, as engineers look to incorporate metrics such as user comments and status updates to compile and rank results.

Meanwhile, companies that do want to take advantage of how Graph Search works should carve out local identities on Facebook, as opposed to relying on a larger corporate presence, panellists agreed.

"Brands that can reach users as quickly as possible and localize their content as quickly as possible will trump those who spend hundreds of millions of dollars," said Peter Fasano, senior vice-president at Social@Ogilvy Atlanta, a technology consulting firm.

"If you're just pushing the same message out on your branded Facebook page that you're pushing on local Facebook pages, you're totally missing the boat," agreed Anderson.

Additionally, being able to see what the top searches are that are performed via Graph Search, in a fashion akin to Google Analytics, will help give businesses the information they need to improve their marketing efforts, speakers said.

Facebook launched Graph Search to a limited number of users in January.

More emerging technology trends

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

People in vegan houses shouldn't throw bacon

Picture this. You’re at a Gourmerican burger joint chomping a cheeseburger, when an outspoken vegan friend starts preaching that you’re killing the planet. Last week, that same vegan downed a pricey glass of pinot before their flight to a far-flung destination, armed with their strongest mossie repellant and first aid kit. Anything amiss?

Abbie Love

Strategist, Ikon Communications

The role of the CMO is evolving: Are you keeping up?

My (amazing) vacation in the Galapagos Islands earlier in the year got me thinking about Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. What does this have to do with the role of today’s CMO, you ask? Plenty.

Sheryl Pattek

Vice-president, executive partner

Getting your business ready for the Entrepreneurial Consumer

We all know the digital revolution has completely transformed the way consumers are interacting with brands, and that a lot of businesses are finding it hard to catch up. One way to closing this brand gap is to understand consumer behaviour and build a brand experience that meets these new needs.

Pip Stocks

CEO and founder, BrandHook

It’s excellent aiming to resurrect the complete within the hearts and minds of connected customers, moreover because the terribly relevan...

CMO Interview: How Kodak’s global CMO is bringing the brand back from the brink

Read more

Great to see ActiveCampaign's growth funded with some serious money.As a platform, it's up there with the usual suspects in terms of feat...

Lawrence Ladomery

CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 13 October

Read more


Kerry Edwards

Open Colleges taps into social for better student interaction

Read more

Or just go to sites like www.shopsthatshiptoaustralia.c... and others and be sure that the stores will send to where you live :-)


Why online shopping is like dating – RedBalloon CEO

Read more

Personalisation is the key. Customers demand a very relatable and well defined CX where the sincerity and understanding of their disposit...

Hitesh Parekh

In pictures: Improving cutomer experiences through smart personalisation

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in