How Facebook Graph Search Evolves Digital Word-of-Mouth

When Facebook unveiled the concept of the Open Graph in April of 2010, it created a cottage industry of Facebook-dependent businesses and applications that rode the social media giant to viral success. The platform allowed publishers to drop a variety of plug-ins onto their sites, thus integrating them more closely with Facebook and even becoming a part of a Facebook user’s Open Graph itself. By adding features such as the like button, activity feed, recommendations, Facebook login, comments and live stream to a site, it became a way for Facebook to collect data even when you weren’t on Facebook.

The evolution of the Open Graph and your Facebook activity is Graph Search, which allows users to conduct more integrated searches based on likes, people, places, photos or other content that has been shared. Now that more details have been shared directly from Facebook, we can see that the functionality will give Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor…and yes, even Google…a run for their money.

Open Graph Closes the Gates

Facebook’s Open Graph did more than just allow users to integrate their sites more closely with Facebook; it gave app developers outside of Facebook access to a treasure trove of data, which created successful games and sharing apps, such as Voxer, Viddy, and the empire built by casual gaming giant Zynga.

Success drove casual gaming revenues as well as new Facebook registrations. The power of your “bored at work network” and Words with Friends requests was noted in entrepreneurial circles and has been repurposed by startups and app creators heavily since as a method for user adoption.

Then the information tap closed. Under the guise of preserving the quality of the Facebook user experience, new protocols implemented in 2012 severely curtailed how these apps and games could interact with the news feed and usage plummeted.

This chapter of Open Graph lead to heightened media scrutiny of Facebook’s privacy settings and data practices. The takeaway: your Facebook activity and shared content belongs to Facebook.

Facebook Slowly Rolls Out Graph Search

In 2013, Facebook introduced Graph Search, which integrates a user’s likes and other connections to return results it considers most relevant for each individual user. Unlike web search, which uses keywords, Graph Search uses phrases, such as “friends in Atlanta who like sushi” and provides a unique set of results for each user depending on their friend network.

It took seven months to completely roll out Graph Search to all Facebook users in the U.S., and it was several months after that before users could search status updates. The mobile version was just released last week. Zuckerberg did insist during an earnings call that this was a planned “five-year process.”

How Graph Search Evolves Digital Word-of-Mouth

Knowing which social media platforms to embrace and how to use them is essential for small business owners today. Think of Facebook’s Graph Search as a different kind of search engine. Unlike Google or Bing, it is…as Facebook has described, a “social search engine.” Although it’s not the first of its kind, Graph Search is likely to be a huge success, considering Facebook’s 1.35 billion users and the vast amounts of data. Since promoting posts in Facebook’s news feed now comes at a cost out of reach for every day business, Graph Search also presents a new non pay-to-play opportunity.

Along with the rollout of the mobile version of Graph Search, Facebook recently added a more traditional keyword search feature. Designed primarily to search old news feed posts from your friend network, the feature directly competes with Yelp reviews and traditional Google searches for local services. For example, a user entering the terms “restaurant” or “lawyer” will see posts from their network likely to be positive or negative sentiment about recent experiences.

Fueled by an incredible amount of information and demographic data, Facebook is now able to tailor and personalize local discovery to each individual user. Smartphone adoption rates and Facebook mobile usage are continuing to grow. There are multiple viewpoints on whether Facebook new registrations has peaked or continues to expand, but regardless, the 1.35B signed up do love to express their personal opinion on the goods and services around them…which includes Main Street shops.

The point for a small business owner in 2015 is that it’s more important than ever to manage existing customer relationships so that the digital word-of-mouth generated by their endorsements brings business back and aligns you for discovery in secondary friend networks.

Rather than spending money on promoted campaigns that chase vanity metrics such as “likes” and followers, small business owners should use basic customer relationship management software like Signpost with targeted offers that provide top customers the best experience possible. When your existing customer base feels valued, they will generate all the advertising you need in today’s connected world.