Facebook Graph Search: what does it mean to small business owners?

Facebook made the headlines on Tuesday after announcing its latest innovation dubbed ‘Graph Search’.  Though the name is somewhat ambiguous, ‘Graph Search’ just may be the biggest improvement to Facebook since…well, forever.

So what exactly is Graph Search?

If you’ve ever used Facebook’s current search capabilities, you know as well as anyone that it far underserves the needs of Facebook users.  Though Facebook is equipped with all the social ‘big data‘ in the world, a simple search for ‘small business blogs my friends read’ returns nothing of consequence.  Shame, right?

Enter, ‘Graph Search’.  Want to find a restaurant recommended by your friends?  Search it.  How about the after-work beverage of choice as chosen by your colleagues? Search it. How about which cloud accounting service your freelancer friends use the most?  Search it!  In fact, any long tail keyword search phrase will now return results as long as it’s related to people, photos, places and interests.

Why does it matter to small business owners?

Although these changes are primarily geared toward consumers, they impact small business owners as well.  Here are a few key takeaways from the announcements on Tuesday:

1. If you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, now’s the time

With millions of Facebook users searching for all kinds of products and services recommended by their friends, setting up a Facebook page for your business will automatically improve your chances of being discovered.  But it doesn’t stop there – though the specifics aren’t completely clear yet (‘Graph Search’ is currently in beta mode after all), here are a few Facebook features that are likely to improve your search rankings:

  • Use Facebook Places:  If you’re a local business, claim your venue and start encouraging customers to check-in when they visit.  Heck, you may even want to fiddle around with a ‘check-in‘ deal.  The more check-ins, the more likely you’ll show up in search results.
  • Update basic information:  Similar to how you’ve used keywords on your website to improve your SEO ranking, you may need to apply the same strategy to your Facebook page.  For example, make sure all open text fields (‘About’, ‘Description’ and ‘Mission’ sections) are complete and keyword-rich, and be super clear about who you are and what services or products you provide.
  • Tag photos:  If you’re sharing photos with your fans, tag ‘em.  Whether it’s a location, a certain date, or your employees, tagged photos may stand a better chance of showing up in search results.

2. “Likes” matter more than ever

As more and more people connect to your page, your chances of showing up in search results increases.  This has a few implications for small business owners:

  • More ad spend allocated to Facebook:  With more ‘Likes’ potentially leading to more customers, small business owners are bound to invest in Facebook ads. Side note – it’s a brilliant strategy by Facebook that forces small business owners to reconsider how they spend their ad budgets, ultimately increasing Facebook’s ad revenue through products like ‘Sponsored Stories’.
  • Investment in content and community:   A steady stream of quality content and good community management generally leads to organic fan growth.  Small business owners may need to allocate more time to developing engaging, shareable content for their Facebook audiences.

3. Making connections just got easier

More targeted search means you have more opportunities to connect with others.  Here’s how you can benefit:

  • Find leads:  Is your service geared toward CIOs in Portland?  Are you a wedding photographer looking for ‘Engaged’ couples in Vancouver?  Whatever your target market may be, a simple Facebook search will generate a nice list of (semi) qualified leads – one private message later, and you may have just found your new client.  Note – you’ll only get results for users with certain privacy settings.  Facebook made sure to address the privacy issue head-on, noting that all existing privacy settings would be respected.
  • Recruit talent:  If you’re looking to add staff to your team, Facebook might be a great place to start your search.  For instance, you’ll be able to specify a role, past workplaces, cities and other information relevant to your job posting in a single long tail keyword search.  Not only is this good for employers, but it’s great for contractors and freelancers looking to be found.  As long as your profile is public and you’ve filled in your employment information accurately, you may just find your new project sitting in your inbox – a brilliant, yet subtle way for Facebook to encourage users to follow its philosophies of becoming more open.

As ‘Graph Search’ is released to a wider audience in the next few weeks and months, we’re sure we’ll find a few more nuggets worth sharing.  For now, we’d love to hear your thoughts.  Did you follow the announcements?  Think we missed anything?  Let us know in the comments.

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.