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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

7 ways to champion a human centred design culture

Human Centred Design (HCD) has come a long way in the last decade with many forward-thinking organisations now asking for HCD teams on their projects. It’s increasingly seen as essential to unlocking innovation, driving superior customer experiences and reducing delivery risk.

Shane Burford

Head of research and design, RXP Group

Building a human-curated brand

If the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) sector and their measured worth are the final argument for the successful 21st Century model, then they are beyond reproach. Fine-tuning masses of algorithms to reduce human touchpoints and deliver wild returns to investors—all with workforces infinitesimally small compared to the giants of the 20th Century—has been proven out.

Will Smith

Co-founder and head of new markets, The Plum Guide

Sustainability trends brands can expect in 2020

​Marketers have made strides this year in sustainability with the number of brands rallying behind the Not Business As Usual alliance for action against climate change being a sign of the times. While sustainability efforts have gained momentum this year, 2020 is shaping up to be the year brands are really held accountable for their work in this area.

Ben King

CSR manager & sustainability expert, Finder

Hey Vanessa, thanks for providing us the things marketers should know about data privacy. This was really an informative post.

astha sharma

5 things marketers should know about data privacy in 2020

Read more

Well, that's good to know that. Any other news you want to share here? I can't wait to see more.

Phil Godfrey

Queensland appoints first chief customer and digital officer

Read more

It's a pretty interesting article to read. I will learn more about this company later.

Dan Bullock

40 staff and 1000 contracts affected as foodora closes its Australian operations

Read more

If you think it can benefit both consumer and seller then it would be great

Simon Bird

Why Ford is counting on the Internet of Things to drive customer engagement

Read more

It's a good idea. Customers really should control their data. Now I understand why it's important.

Elvin Huntsberry

Salesforce CMO: Modern marketers have an obligation to give customers control of their data

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in