Facebook Graph Search: A Marketing Gem, Albeit Creepy

By Jeremy Harrison

February 20, 2013

Last month, Facebook announced a new feature called "Graph Search." You'll see it on your Facebook page soon. There's already a lot of info out there about the new Graph Search. But it's the features hidden under the surface that has great potential for marketers.  

Using graph search, you can start to understand your customers in a new dimension.  I'll show you some of the possibilities in a moment, but first, a disclaimer...

This new feature will lead to all kinds of ethical questions about privacy.  Should Facebook be collecting all this data?  Should they be making it available for the public to search? My wife -- who chooses to stay off Facebook altogether -- is really creeped out by all this information being online.  I can't say I'm thrilled with it being there, but for now, it's there.  I continue to "Like" things, and use Facebook, and in turn, I become part of their "sample" of one BILLION humans on Facebook.  And as a marketing professional, I see great opportunity to better understand customer groups, so I will use it that way too.

How Does It Work?

Every time you like something on Facebook (a page, a book, a movie, etc), that information is stored as part of a large database Facebook calls their "social graph."  Graph search is simply a search tool that allows you to look things up based on this social graph data.

It's billed as a tool to learn more about your connections.  They share pretty basic example searches like:

Facebook Graph Search

Fun right?  But not super useful.

But when I put on my "marketing hat" and start trying some more creative searches, I start to get more useful data.  Let's share just one scenario...

Useful Marketing Purposes for the Facebook Graph:

The Old Farmer's AlmanacSuppose I have a client with an antique furniture store.  Perhaps I search favorite pages of 200 people who like their store, and find a lot of them also like "The Old Farmer's Almanac." Good to know!  There are 168,000 people who like The Farmer's Almanac.  There are thousands who are within driving distance of the antique store -- many would probably love my client's antique furniture store if they visited.  

So, we could craft ads for my customer's furniture store showing an antique end table with the Farmer's Almanac on top.  I can be sure that these ads would resonate with many prospective customers on an emotional level.

tableTo take it a step further, I could run Facebook Ads that show that antique end table, with a Farmer's Almanac on it, and display the ad ONLY to people within 50 miles of the store who like The Farmer's Almanac!  The unmistakable old cover of the almanac will catch these folks' attention because they already like it.  And there's a strong likelihood many of them would love the antique furniture too!  An ad for antique tables should get a massive boost in its response rate by adding the Farmer's Almanac to the ad.

Do you see where I'm going with this?  The possibilities are endless, and this is just one example.

Here are some sample searches to help you get started:

  • "Favorite books of people who like [interest]"
  • "Favorite movies of people who are [occupation]"
  • "Favorite books of women who like [interest]"
  • "Favorite interests of people who studied [field of study]"

I have no idea whether this grid search will be accepted by the public, or if people will get so creeped out that Facebook scales back it's functionality.  But for now, there is great potential to better understand your customers.

Like anything else on Facebook, you can waste a lot of time on this.  But the example I shared with the antique furniture and the Farmer's Almanac? Hopefully that gets your wheels turning a bit.  

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