What Facebook’s Graph Search means for your small business

5600215736_b6d0ac73a9_zYou’re probably aware that a Facebook page can benefit your small business, but did you know the social network is currently rolling out a new feature that could bring more customers to your business?

This week, Facebook began to roll out its new Graph Search function, which is currently available to users whose language is set to US English — this includes many users in the UK. Now is the time for small businesses to prepare for the upcoming changes before they become available to all UK users.

What is Graph Search?

Graph Search is a new search function unique to Facebook. It aims to take on Google, but not to replicate it. Graph Search is more personalised than a web search — it shows you results from your network. Typical Graph Searches could be ‘friends who have been to Italy’ or ‘photos of me before 2008’.

Although it may seem like a personalised consumer feature, Facebook users can use Graph Search to find businesses they are interested in. It will particularly benefit local businesses with physical locations, such as restaurants or beauty salons. For example, when planning a meal out, a Facebook user could search ‘restaurants my friends like in London’.

How to prepare:

Firstly, it’s important to make sure your business has its own page — not a personal profile. Many small businesses and sole traders make this mistake. Even if you’re the sole employee of the business (such as a mobile hairdresser or a personal trainer), setting up a business page separate to your personal profile is the only way to be found in Graph Search.

If you’ve already got a business page, now is a good time to do some spring cleaning. Most importantly, make sure you’ve provided a business address. This will ensure your business listing appears when a Facebook user does a relevant local search (‘restaurants near me’, ‘hairdressers in Cambridge’, etc.). You wouldn’t miss this information out on your website, so why leave it out of your Facebook page?

Go to your page settings and ensure you’ve filled in as much information as you can. If you haven’t done so already, fill in the business category and subcategory sections on your page. Potential customers searching for more specific keywords will miss you out if you don’t include this (ie. if your business is a seafood restaurant but is just in the ‘restaurant’ category, it won’t show up when people search for seafood restaurants).

If you’ve been abandoning your business’ Facebook page, it’s time to re-engage. Active pages with plenty of interaction are likely to rank higher in Graph Search results. A good profile image is also important for your page. Facebook will display a large version of this in search results, so use your company’s logo, a good quality picture of your business venue, or an image some of your products.

The more likes your page has, the more visible you will become on Facebook’s Graph Search, and the more you will show up when your fans’ friends search for businesses. You should encourage more genuine likes from your customers, but don’t be tempted to buy fake likes — Facebook goes to great lengths to prevent this and could suspend your business’ account.

Facebook Graph Search is just the latest evidence that social proof is influencing your potential customers. Trust is becoming more important to consumers, with many relying on the recommendations and experiences of their friends. Whether Graph Search proves popular or not, it could pay to be prepared for when it lands in the UK.

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Anthony Karibian is CEO of bOnline. Find Anthony on Google here or follow bOnline on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn,

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