Facebook is changing the social media game once again. We have watched over the years as the social giant has rolled out new features for both brands and users. This year is no different. With over 1 billion users and counting, the network offers the biggest bank of social data on the Web. These new functions will ultimately make Facebook a more open platform for marketers.

Graph Search

In a recent announcement from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, a new search feature is being rolled out to Beta users called Graph Search. This function is a combination of the current search bar with the power of Facebook’s social graph. It opens up a world of opportunities for brand exposure. As of right now, Graph Search is available to beta users but soon will be rolled out globally on the network. As Zuckerburg points out in this video, it will be a pillar of the Facebook experience.

What Graph Search can do for Brands

The term ‘earned media’ refers to organic exposure earned through social media. For example, you post a funny video on your brand page that gets many comments and shares. The viral exposure gained through these actions is earned through brand engagement. You are basically rewarded for providing value to your potential customers. This reward was primarily accomplished through Facebook’s Newsfeed. The game has changed.
Graph Search allows you to receive more visibility through social search. If you build up a targeted community for your page, you are now more likely reach the friends of the users connected to your brand. For example, I recently searched for ‘snowboards’ looking to uncover some new brands. Sure enough, Facebook yielded results on snowboard companies that were connected to my social circle.
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What does this all mean? It’s simple. Think about Facebook as the Web. It’s a place where millions of people and businesses are uploading content. Millions of content types such as photos are going live daily on the network. A search utility that leverages the social graph allows any user to uncover new content, people or products. Therefore, there is an opportunity to engage new customers through social discovery. The same principles that apply to traditional marketing will apply to Graph Search. The more people you have talking about your products, the more likely you will be found.

What About Hashtags?

Some would argue that Twitter is more useful as a marketing platform than Facebook. This is partially due to the hashtag. This function has been so keen for social media users that networks like Pinterest and Instagram have also adopted it. Hashtags allow users and brands to tie conversations together. For example, thousands of people are currently talking March Madness.
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With the simple hashtag #MarchMadness, millions of people around the world can converse about the event. In addition, brands can monitor conversations and engage with potential customers. This simple function provides tremendous insights for marketers. Facebook is now looking to roll out this functionality to a billion people. This means you will be able to market products, events and content through hashtags across all major social platforms. You can create synergy between Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
It is yet to be seen how Facebook will use this new bank of social data. Will Facebook build a keyword tool for search queries much like Google? Will advertisers be able to promote hashtags on Facebook?
It all seems a bit creepy knowing how much data Facebook has on its users. At the same time, marketers are salivating over the data that can be used to craft a highly targeted marketing message. Lets see how this plays out.
What will Facebook do next? We would love to hear from you. Post your questions and comments below.