Social data and search

As digital living took hold in 2012, social media became a significant part of everyday life for millions across the UK. Indeed, social media makes up 12 per cent of all internet visits and a remarkable 23 per cent of the total time spent online in the UK.

With more than a billion Facebook accounts and half a billion Twitter users, this year will undoubtedly see even more of marketing budgets being spent on reaching social media users. Though the obsession with blindly chasing fans or followers has thankfully lost credence (yet sadly remains prevalent in some organisations).

The challenge is to monetise and measure social investments by understanding the value of the data, insights and conversions that these social channels create.

I believe 2013 will see the evolution and more mainstream adoption of tools that provide straightforward ways to measure the value to the business of this social sharing. In turn, this will help businesses return to the challenge of creating the unique and provoking social media campaigns that are necessary for ‘word of mouth’ to flourish. Adding to the social challenge is Facebook’s recently launched Graph Search.

With Graph Search, marketers will be faced with the same issues, as they look to use it effectively for their business. For a long time, Facebook’s search bar has been uncomfortably inadequate.

Therefore, the Graph Search announcement was a relief, but, as always, advertisers are already working to identify the associated opportunities and challenges. In order to ensure they feature in search results, brands will need to engage with their social communities – and this will propel creative and effective content to the top of the social media manager’s mind. Clever marketers will use insights gleaned from social listening and applications to inform the type of content used within their owned properties.

So, here are some tips on how to prepare for the inevitable rise of social search:

1: Get your house in order
It’s important to ensure that your Facebook page is as complete as possible (as is already the case in SEO best practice). Every single field must be filled out. If you aren’t categorising yourself, Facebook will make decisions for you or you won’t feature at all.

2: Start thinking in pictures and minimise links
Only directly shared photos and videos will show in photo and video searches, so minimise Facebook links for this type of post.

3: Keep building your community
According to recent reports, advertisers recently took issue with the News Feed algorithm changes that caused a decline in organic reach. Those who spent their budgets acquiring fans were beginning to ask what their pages were worth if they weren’t able to reach their fans with a simple page post. Graph Search will boost the value of this community; the more fans you have, the more likely you are to show up in a user’s search.

4: Encourage sharing
Search results will be highly personalised, meaning that an identical search will yield different results for you and me. Strong connections between a user and an object will likely be given priority over weak connections. Therefore, brands need to think about how they can strengthen the relationship with their fans by encouraging sharing of content from their page.

In the first roll out, Graph Search will only include results according to people, pages, apps, places and groups, but brands should expect this to branch out to include posts and comments in the near future.

With large scale user take up, Graph Search provides another way for brands to distinguish themselves from their competition. The key will be to get the basics right – don’t let admin slip and continue to build your fan base. After all, it’s a brand’s fans that will provide its biggest advantage when Graph Search becomes mainstream.

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