Peter Fasano - SXSW

Graph Search for Marketers at #SXSW — #SXSWOgilvy

I have been preparing for my panel discussion at SXSW to engage with my brand, agency, and developer colleagues in a discussion about the “Marketing Implications of Facebook Graph Search” (Thanks to the OMMA Social folks for recruiting me into the mix).

Facebook surprised us almost two months ago with their unveiling of the beta Graph Search. (My Social@Ogilvy colleagues wrote a great primer for Brands that you should check out.) There has been conversations about Unicorns, privacy and resulting ironic “Like” interests about the search service, but what does any of this mean to Marketers?

It means little at the moment as this is new to the consumer with limited adoption or even consumer understanding of what it is. Thus, it has the potential to be a disruptive service that will be very relevant to Marketers.

1      The Unicorn thing is a fascinating development in the technology of search. What you need to know is that Facebook engineering team has built a two part service that does a great job of searching with Natural Language Processing and a response service that has indexed social objects and graph relationships in Facebook. Facebook users in the beta engage Unicorn when they ask a question in the form of a search “Which of my friends in San Francisco have not attended SXSW” or “Who do I know that works at Disney?”

2      The Privacy thing is an emerging concern for Facebook users. It is not that new terms of use have been established but has exposed the good, bad, and ugly of each action of each Facebook user. This breadcrumb trail of Graph Search is honest…really honest. It is essentially the search of the Timeline of the user.

3      The irony thing is really the outcomes of the Privacy thing. The search flexibility of Unicorn and the machine learning building its knowledge of terms and jargon provide the contextual flexibility to relate questions and descriptions against engaged social objects and relationships. Simply put, this kind of search power exposes the ironic relationships between those relationships. The examples of contrasting relationships are endless and are likely the new muse for comedians and political bloggers to name a few.

With that grounding, I have described the technical platform, the fear of the user and the potential humor or embarrassment of individuals, groups or brands. Sounds like a winner? The consumer adoption of Graph Search is limited to the Beta now and it is currently solving a problem that users do not know that they have. A critical value has not yet been derived from the service as of the moment to make it a trusted or relevant source of information. I feel the potential value will come when it is available via mobile when it will offer superior decision making information about where to go, what to do next, or who to ask directly about the topic. In my view, this is the future of Facebook Nearby – the mobile discovery feature of Facebook Mobile Apps.

So what does this mean for Marketers?

Focus on these efforts while consumer adoption evolves:

1      Evaluate your “Likes.” Is your Page connecting with your customers? In your markets? Compare your subscription data or CRM records and relate that number to the Facebook “Likes” you have now; if your Facebook subscriptions are less than 20% of your email subscriptions then you have some work to realign or risk not being found. Re-evaluate Single or Multi-Page strategies to understand Graph Search ranking for key customer segments. Does the critical mass of a single Page vs dozens or more individual Pages have trade-offs? This calls for a significant strategic evaluation of social architecture.

2      Improve your PTAT Score. People Talking About This (PTAT) is an indication of engagement with your brand Page and in the context of Graph Search an indicator of search relevance. I feel this is the critical element to Graph Search that neutralizes big vs. small Pages with a focus on resonance.

3      Diversify your media types and other social objects. The increasingly visual design of Facebook should have evolved your strategy to include native photos and videos. Also, events, applications or Places as engagement points that offer user engagement and additional social object points.

4      Define your location strategy. Facebook Pages, Places, Place Pages can be complicated, and Graph Search exposes the lack of social architecture that many Brands have ignored. This means claiming Places, decluttering “unofficial” Places and associating Places to Brand Pages. Beyond the mechanics, your contact information and location need to be updated to ensure your Place is where your customer will walk into your business.

5      Integrate Facebook Open Graph into your digital portfolio. How are your apps, websites, and mobile strategies integrating Open Graph? Are you focused on the principles of Objects, Actions and Aggregation? These social interactions outside of Facebook on your owned properties are key areas to enrich your customer engagement with high-value social objects.