Earlier today Facebook announced that they are Beta testing a new type of search functionality for all users using the English version of Facebook. Graph Search is a huge step towards using the full power of all of that information you’ve been putting into Facebook since the launch of the Social Graph. Looking back over the last couple of years, all of Facebook's new features make sense now.
Back in March of 2012 we saw Timeline move from an optional UI to a mandatory one, and along with it repeated prompts to add items to your timeline. Life events were specific, and things like adding new photos to the timeline allowed you to backdate them to the time they were taken. Add to that geo location tagging of updates and content (including the stuff they got from the Instagram acquisition) and you’ve got a pretty robust amount of content to search.
What Does It Do?
So what does Graph Search do? Well, in the simplest terms, it allows you to search all of the content in your social graph, and Facebook’s collective content, with natural language. If you want to find all of your friends who have Orwell’s 1984 listed as their favorite book, just type “friends who like George Orwell's 1984”. Or, say you are a real planner and you want to get all those birthday cards for friends who have birthdays in February, just type “friends with birthdays in February”.
From a user perspective, this really makes the Facebook search function infinitely more useful than before. There are some real implications for how this threatens LinkedIn, but I'll save that for another post.
What Does It Mean For My Non-Profit?
As far as I know there isn’t any public data about how people are finding your organization on Facebook. The path to “like” is pretty unclear at the moment. Are they entering your organization name in the search bar? Are they getting there from your website? Are they seeing you in their friend’s timeline? Are you paying for sponsored posts?
We’ll assume for the sake of this post that folks are finding you in the search bar, both by name and by topic.
At the most basic level (and let’s be honest not everyone has taken care of the basics) Graph Search is going to look at the data points in your About section. So you need to make sure that section is complete. Details like your location, your non-profit sub category, founding date, hours, etc. are all items that could be used in the search that would return your organization name.
Next up, and this is especially true for organizations in the environment or conservation arena, tagging your photos. I spent nearly 5 years working for an environmental non-profit and I know that you are likely sitting on a treasure trove of photos of wild places. If you haven't yet populated your album with dates and location tagging, now is a good time. Increase the chances of your name coming up when someone searches “photos of Yellowstone”. Even if it is someone who already likes your page, driving visitors to your content reminds them that you are out there doing good work.
Also in the world of photo tagging are in-person events. For advocacy groups who are doing Hill drops, on the ground rallies, or any of a variety of other events where your fans may participate, asking your fans to tag themselves in photos has been important for a long time. The problem was that tagging was pretty short lived, as it would only appear in that person’s timeline when they were tagged. With Graph Search, when I search for a photos of a friend and she happens to have been tagged (or tagged herself) in a Sierra Club photo at Hill drop, that photo will come up. If I haven’t liked Sierra Club, I just might.
You probably get the drift at this point. Appropriate tagging, geo location, dates and description text is going to be important for updates, photos, and events. All of these things are good practice generally for good SEO, but with the Social Graph layer on top of the results, it is more important than ever that you take the time to do it right.
Facebook also makes mention that Sponsored results will show up in results, so if you haven't yet started to play around with that tool, it might be a good time to start.
What Is Next With Facebook Graph Search?
I’ll be interested to see how many people have signed up for the beta and, whether like most releases like this, it is just the power users or practitioners who are using it. Second, I didn’t find any specific references to how this will be applied to the mobile app, but that is not a surprise with the way Facebook has treated mobile like a bad stepchild. Timeline took nearly a year to go from an optional to a mandatory feature, so it is tough to predict how long it will take to get to a full roll out.
In the next day or two we are likely to see some push back on the new feature, so keep your eyes open for what the drawbacks might be. We're certainly looking closer to see what impact this would have on privacy.
The best thing we can do is something we should always be doing – take care of the basics. Fill in all the fields because it is good SEO practice even if this is a total flop (although I expect it won't be).
Kick the tires a bit and let us know how you plan to make the most of the new tool. Either for Marketing or Advocacy work, Facebook has just made it easier to find your organization.
[LATE UPDATE] Business Insider speculates that Facebook is working on doing away with Pages all together, but let's not start making changes to the way we use Facebook for our brands and campaigns just yet. Rumors abound.