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You’re Having a Graph

28th February 13

Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

Posted in Social

Author: Helen Lawrence, Social Strategist BBH London & BBH Labs

graph-search

The ‘BBH Junk’ email group is a wonderful place. In a standard day people will share robots playing Motorhead, a tool for remixing pop songs and occasionally the embarrassing instance of “oh my god, this video of a sneezing baby panda is amazing”. Yup. Still.

But more often than not it’s a place for questions. Any recommendations for hotels in Barcelona? What is the best dentist in North London? Where should I eat in San Francisco?

And my all time favourite…

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.43.45

Personal recommendations are still hard to come by. It’s a fragmented ecosystem, collating results across Foursquare, Trip Advisor, Yelp and Google isn’t much fun and certainly not all that useful.

Facebook’s recent (ish) announcement – Graph Search – is hoping to change all that.

It’s been a month or so since the news broke, so we’ve had a little while to ponder its potential and to chuckle at some of the more ridiculous searches done so far.

Facebook are hailing it as ‘structured search’: the ability to see connections between people, photos, places and interests. It’s all about content, connections and Likes at the moment; so far status updates and Open Graph actions, such a listening to a song, won’t be included. The examples Facebook have given of example searches include: restaurants my friends have been to in London, photos of my friends in New York and people at my work who like skiing.

The implications for brands are huge, and while we don’t tend to recommend knee jerk reactions following news of any platform updates, here are a few predictions on what might change.

1. The land grab. The importance of fan numbers is going to hit us again. It’ll be interesting to see how Fan numbers creep up naturally as users begin to explore content in results. Wormholes of recommendations and mutual interests are always going to drive traffic, but it’s likely we’ll see an influx of brands pouring money into Fan numbers to ensure they appear in as many results as possible.

2. Importance of rich media engagement. Facebook is the biggest photo repository in the world, Graph Search is probably going to make it the most useful too. Nowhere else can you search photos of ‘friends from Bognor Regis before 1999’. It’s not clear yet how a brand’s photos will appear in Graph Search results, but doubtlessly we’ll see even more emphasis placed on rich media content rather than traditional text updates.

3. Getting content prepped for Graph Search. Get ready for the Like button plague. Brands should start thinking about how to get content appearing in Graph Search results and most likely, we’ll see lots of those pesky Like buttons being placed on sites and content.

4. New analysis and strategies needed between passive News Feed engagement and active Graph Search engagement. It’s no longer enough to know how to reach people and how to engage, it’s now about know when people search and how to appear in that search. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the data Facebook can provide brands about how and when people are looking for your content and connections. Hopefully it’ll be better than the truly shoddy Facebook Insights offered at the moment.

5. Mobile. Because it’s forbidden to write a blog post about anything without saying that mobile will be an important part of it. Future of microwaves? Mobile. Future of fake tan? Mobile. But Graph Search is actually one of those times when mobile will actually be an important factor. Out & About is the obvious one – physical retailers and restaurants are going to have to find ways to get people to Check In and engage with content.

Whilst there are approximately 10.2 million blog posts already written about the ‘Death Of Google’ in light of Graph Search, the overlap in uses seems to be quite narrow. For example,

I’m not sure I’d go to Facebook to hunt down a plumber. That is definitely a job for Google, where recommendations outside my social graph are more important and useful. But for content discovery & organisation and lifestyle recommendations, Graph Search is going to be ace.

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