In a much-anticipated move, Facebook recently announced Graph Search, a way to search its map of connections, images, and other content. And, with the launch of Facebook Graph Search, the social media giant has dived into the search plus social proof game, first attempted by Google with its inclusion of Google+ recommendations in search results.
There are many implications of what this potentially could mean for Google and search in general. However, setting these buckets aside, there are some really interesting ways that this new feature could help marketers as they strive to promote and sell products using social media.
Marketers have known for years -- much before the advent of social media even -- that social proof is a very powerful tool for influencing consumer-buying habits. Marketers have applied these principles to digital by implementing reviews on website product-detail pages, giving them as much as a 30 percent increase in conversion rates. That's an impressive increase, and it only represents a recommendation from someone with whom a visitor is not personally connected. When the recommendation stems from someone a visitor does know, trust increases exponentially; more than 75 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations from friends. And with more than 800 million active Facebook users, the potential to harness social proof and use it to help accomplish marketing objectives is incredible.
So, how does this relate to you and your products?
Social proof on steroids
Graph Search results are ranked by the people with whom you interact most. While I have many friends on Facebook, I interact with and am closer to some more than others. So, if one of my close friends recommends a product or service, my trust in that opinion will be higher than one from someone I don't regularly correspond with. I don't think it's a leap to conclude that consumers would trust the recommendations of people in their close inner circles more so than acquaintances -- which is already very high at 75 percent.
So, as a digital marketer, how would you take advantage of Facebook's newly enabled social proof? The most likely scenario: Facebook enabling marketers, either through Ads Manager or the Ads API, the ability to target ads based on these close connections. Can you imagine the conversion rates? I'm certain they will be far higher than any other search or display medium we use today -- by far.
Currently, for example, users can type "Friends Who" and Graph Search will offer suggestions. Imagine a person searching for "Friends who like running" and Nike Running advertises against that result. Not only will Nike's ad unit be served against a highly targeted audience, it will be accompanied by the social proof of the searchers' closest friends. Bonkers.
More real estate for advertisers
The more viable touch points you have with a potential customer, the better. Let's look at search for another example. Although the rankings appear on the same page, retailers want to appear in top positions for both the paid and organic results. The competition for attention on a search results page is high, and you want to capture the most attention you can. The same case can be made on Facebook. Graph Search provides yet another place for your brand and products to get exposure.
While Graph Search is still in beta and slowly rolling out over the next several weeks, other Facebook functionality already exists that will give you some of the same targeting functionality:
- Correlation search allows you to search for "friends who like running and camping." You could also target this same demographic using interest targeting in Facebook Ads Manager.
- Demographic search is interesting, but you can also add demographic targeting to any other ad targeting you already have.
Digital marketers should also consider the following areas where Graph Search can help with their marketing funnel:
- Market intelligence: Marketers could search, for example, for "magazines liked by runners" to see if there are publications they aren't already aware of and/or advertising in. (If you're friends with a bunch of runners, that would make the results even better.)
- Awareness: Photos with more interaction/engagement will appear higher in search results. This should push brands to promote organic posts in order to not get outshined by sponsored ones.
- Impressions: Since Bing results are incorporated in Facebook web results, if more people start using the search feature, it looks like brands may see an uptick in their Bing ad impressions.
- Conversion: In Graph Search, you can search for people who have been (checked-in) somewhere. Currently, this isn't an ad targeting option in Ads Manager. "Checked-in targeting" could provide an interesting way for retailers to target ads to existing customers (people who have been to their brick-and-mortar locations) and provide a way for retailers to help combat "showrooming."
Smart marketers have moved way beyond blanket marketing. Instead, they are honing their strategies and concentrating on serving targeted messages to specific customer segments across multiple channels. Tools that can easily facilitate this, such as Graph Search, are going to be an integral part of making these tactics not only easier, but also scalable.
Moreover, if executed properly, Graph Search could provide some golden opportunities for marketers to further promote and sell their products in social media. But in and of itself, Graph Search will not serve to cut through the complexity of marketing products in social media. Instead, marketers should consider it as yet another useful tool to be used in conjunction with other tactics and strategies.
"Oval blue button Like and hand cursor" image via Shutterstock.