What Multilocation Brands Need to Do to Prepare for Facebook’s Graph Search | Street Fight

Commentary

What Multilocation Brands Need to Do to Prepare for Facebook’s Graph Search

8 Comments 28 January 2013 by

313585-facebook-logo-fWith the introduction of Facebook search (a.k.a. Graph Search), brands with multiple locations will soon find their Facebook strategy turned on its head. The value of marketing on Facebook is about to shift dramatically and disproportionately from the brand level to the local level for these types of companies.

If you’ve not heard about Graph Search, it was announced on Jan. 15 and is being positioned as the third pillar of the Facebook platform alongside News Feed and Timeline. Timeline is where you post content. News Feed is how that content gets distributed. And now Graph Search is how you can leverage the connections between your friends and the brands they like to generate unique and personalized search results. In other words, Graph Search will enable you to search for the best places to eat, shop, and stay, based on information from shared social connections; the results are implicit recommendations from trusted sources. With Graph Search, Facebook is opening a new world of social discovery by unlocking the value of our likes, check-ins, photos, and more.

Here’s what the results look like when searching for TGI Fridays in Los Angeles:

The challenge for national brands in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries — and any company with multiple locations — is that they’ve invested nearly all their Facebook resources into building and supporting brand pages for the purpose of publishing content and managing customer relationships at the corporate level. But these brands don’t do business at the corporate level. They do business at the local level through large, brick-and-mortar networks. When it comes to Graph Search, these physical locations and their corresponding local Facebook pages are what really matter. Here’s why.

Our mantra for the past year has been that Facebook is giving local pages an equal voice on the social graph. This means that local pages are every bit as important and likely to surface as a brand page. In particular, it means that mobile is elevating local pages to the same stature as brand pages because this is how consumers engage at the local level. We noted last year that Facebook was taking seemingly deliberate steps to “seed” local pages with fans by directing users to local pages at the expense of the brand page. This happened at several points throughout the year across every brand we track. Inexplicably, local pages started generating massive numbers of fans, as if Facebook had flipped the local switch.

The below graphs show this trend for Dunkin’ Donuts and Walgreens. We have graphs for Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and 7-Eleven that show the same thing.

This appears to have set the stage for Graph Search by establishing the local connections that are vital to making this new search paradigm function for multilocation brands. Because if you’re seeking a local result, such as a restaurant, the fans of a corporate brand page are essentially worthless.

To illustrate this point, consider the following example: A Facebook user queries her social graph to find a quick place to eat in Santa Monica, Calif., or an inexpensive gym in New York City. She’s not going to see results based on friends who are fans of Chipotle or 24 Hour Fitness (i.e. their corporate brand pages). Why? Because the search result would point to their respective corporate headquarters, if anywhere. The goal of a search is to get answers. The answer to a food query in Santa Monica should be an actual restaurant, complete with directions and a phone number — not a brand that markets quick-serve Mexican food. The answer to a workout query in New York should be an actual place to work out — not a brand that markets low-cost gyms. This is how Graph Search will work. The answer to a place search, and the potential for consumers to discover new places, relies exclusively on social connections at the local level via local pages.

So when we say that the Facebook marketing strategy for multilocation brands is being flipped on its head, this is no exaggeration. The vast majority of value generated from Facebook for these companies will come from their local pages. As such, brands will want to shift resources accordingly and take the following steps:

1. Claim local pages under the Facebook Parent-Child relationship.
2. Update pages with accurate contact details, categorization, and geocode (latitude and longitude).
3. Identify and merge unauthorized duplicate pages for each location.
4. Encourage customers to like, check in, recommend, rate, and tag photos on local pages.
5. Publish authentic and relevant content on local pages.
6. Benchmark local page performance against competitors’ on a one-to-one basis.

The benefits of successfully optimizing local pages for Graph Search can be substantial. First, it makes local brick-and-mortar businesses available in the search results. Next, it increases the likelihood of being discovered and generating real-world referral traffic. This amounts to new customer acquisition. Finally, these new customers can opt in to receive content and offers by liking the page. When all this occurs in a virtuous cycle, it will create a tremendous competitive advantage at the local level that can be measured.

What is important to note about Graph Search is that publishing brand content is less important than it was in the News Feed-Timeline era. The vital aspect of Graph Search is in building and maintaining social connections, with fans, check-ins, recommendations, ratings, and photos. The latter is especially valuable because Graph Search treats photos as a category unto itself. If a photo is tagged on a local restaurant, retailer, or hotel page, users can discover these places by querying their friends’ photos.

Indeed, these myriad social connections are much like the Web links that get factored into Google Search results. These Facebook connections provide the reputation, relevance, and weighting that power the Graph Search algorithm. And like Google, the quality of these connections is just as important as the quantity. The big difference is that the results of every Facebook search are unique to the individual user. They are personalized based on the social connections. While it’s easy to test the effectiveness of Google SEO — you do a search and check the results — this is not the case with Graph Search. As such, optimization will be much more challenging, requiring specific tools and tactics.

The good news is that Graph Search is just starting to roll out in beta. It will require the adoption of new behaviors among Facebook users, and it will take some time to perform as intended. Nevertheless, brands that move quickly and deliberately to take advantage of this new search paradigm will gain a competitive edge just as first movers in Google Search and Facebook Pages did in the past. Make no mistake, though. With the introduction of Graph Search, the value of Facebook marketing for multilocation brands is making a final shift to the local level.

Moment Feed-0186 FinalRob Reed is founder and CEO of MomentFeed, a social marketing platform built specifically for multilocation brands. The MomentFeed platform provides an integrated solution to manage Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, and Twitter at the local level as well as Graph Search optimization. Reed’s background is in marketing and journalism, and he is the founder of Max Gladwell, an independent blog on social media, sustainability, and geolocation. He can be reached on Twitter.

  • http://twitter.com/julian_jippidy Julian R.M.

    Thanks for the discussion! This is probably the best analysis of what Graph Search means for local vs corporate brand pages that I’ve seen so far. Will be interesting to see what the adoption rate of this type of search will be. I’m still not 100% sold on how accurate/relevant the search results on Graph Search will be, since if I’m curious about “Travel to the Maldives” for example, my friends know less than I do, so querying their collective input on the Maldives is not as useful as a Google search. But I really appreciate how much you laid this argument out, great stuff!

  • Sara

    What do you think this means for corporations that have multiple locations, but all local? For instance, a health care system with 20 different clinic locations? Or a bank with 10 branch locations?

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.leavitt.14 Adam Leavitt

    Why would someone search for a local service on Graph vs. Yelp? Is the “trust” factor of friend recommendations going to outweigh third-party objective recommendations?

    • http://twitter.com/busse chris busse

      Because they are already a Facebook user and/or have Facebook up on their screen. Yelp = “only” 71mm unique users/month.

  • Greg

    Great article rob! One question for you: how do you think brands who have invested a lot of money in facebook ads that drive users to their corporate page will feel about this change? I feel like it would not be wise for Facebook to pull the rug out from under them so quickly.

  • http://twitter.com/AviLambert Avi Lambert

    Fabulous article on how the Facebook Graph Search will affect SoLoMo and integrated customer targeted content marketing.

    I want to add that I appreciate how you continue to stay on target Rob, speaking to the value of SoLoMo without responding to criticism.

    A recent article and session by a Citi Bank exec saying SoLoMo isn’t enough for mobile (http://www.cmo.com/articles/2013/1/18/citi_exec_solomo_is_.html) had me thinking about the way SoLoMo is changing.

    Thanks,
    Avi

  • Ali

    How does one set up a “Parent Page”? Say we already have a corporate business page, and multiple location business pages….How does the corporate page make all of the multiple location pages be under its wing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.whalen Brandon Richard Whalen

    Great article Rob. I wanted to trow in my two cents to say that any business with several locations needs to look into facebook parent child.

    It lets you claim and clean up all of your store info, and ties your location pages directly to your brand page. From there you can push cover photos and profile images to all of your pages, and even push check-in deals to all of the locations too.

    With graph search launching, this is something that any business needs to take care of asap.

    Great info here:
    http://www.slideshare.net/room214/facebook-parentchild-functionality

Nov. 4th in NYC: Local in the City!
Click here to register.

Newsletter

Get hyperlocal industry headlines in your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the Street Fight Daily newsletter.

See how brands compare in local presence across areas such as local SEO, data accuracy, social engagement and more. Presented by Where2GetIt and Street Fight. Click here to see the battle!

Free White Paper: Contextualization

Learn how to deliver better, revenue-driving consumer experiences. Download "Contextualization: Leveraging Location-Based Technology and Mobile to Drive Success for Brands."

Sponsored by Artisan Mobile.

Follow Us

Get the latest Street Fight news, information and analysis via Twitter and Facebook.

The Commerce Graph

The “Commerce Graph” is a new framework we have developed to think about the future of physical exchange. The model offers an alternative to the dominant narrative about the commerce landscape that frames digital networks as an adversary of physical exchange.

The $20 Billion Mobile Marketing Opportunity

Strategies and insights into the landscape of targeting options and how they deliver foot traffic and sales for SMBs.
Check out our 2013 report and get your copy today!

Twitter

© 2014 Street Fight.

Powered by WordPress. Hosting by Page.ly