The “Graph” in Facebook Graph? It’s DemoGRAPHics

Facebook Graph DemographicsHere I thought that Facebook Graph had something to do with X-Y axes and Cartesian coordinates, but it turns out that the “graph” in Facebook Graph comes from demographics. This new search tool may have a huge impact on the kind of social demographic data that you can collect once it’s fully rolled out, and might be a massive boost to your social media marketing campaigns. Skeptics, however, say that Facebook Graph could be more hype than anything else. This article will be an overview of the potential uses of Facebook Graph data, along with a discussion of some of the potential shortcomings.

Facebook Graph: A Brief Refresher

We’ve already talked about the launch of Facebook Graph pretty extensively here on the CEM blog, so I’m going to direct you to a few posts by our writers on what Facebook Graph is and how it might affect businesses rather than rehash all of the details.

For those not already in the know, Facebook Graph essentially heralds a new type of search. A recent post on Wired tells us that Facebook Graph offers something of a contrast to traditional search engines like Google and Bing. While the search engines we’re all used to rely on keywords, links, content, and a smattering of social signals, Facebook Graph is a social search tool. In other words, it directs users to websites based on the “Likes” and other social activities of their friends, allowing for a phrase-based search that turns up completely personalized results.

Targeting Audiences With Social Data

Now, that’s pretty cool just from a search technology perspective, but it also provides an opportunity for businesses to pull extensive amounts of demographic data from user searches. In addition to finding out traditional demographic information like gender and age, you have access to the specific likes and dislikes of your potential customers, as well as an idea of who they’re connected to and the overall flow of word-of-mouth information about your business. Facebook will also supply businesses with demographic data based on number of “Likes,” published actions, and story impressions of their followers.

All of this data, of course, will supply you with the tools necessary to improve your own Facebook marketing strategies and get a better idea of who your most valuable customers are. As I’ve discussed in the past, demographic data is useful, but it only goes so far; Facebook Graph will provide a way to combine both demographic information and the social media behavior of your brand fans, linking two of the data sets that can help you most fully optimize your advertising strategy.

Making Facebook Graph Work for You

Forbes notes that Facebook Graph will result in something of a snowball effect for businesses that do well. Because users will see results based on the “Likes” of their friends, businesses will appear more in the search results as they garner more fans and followers. This means that social media savvy businesses on Facebook will be stepping up their game in coming months to better their search rankings. (If you’re looking for some tips on improving your relationship with your followers, check out my recent post on taking brand fans from “Like” to love.)

But for Graph skeptics, therein lies a problem with Facebook’s new search function. Max Gladwell of Huffington Post points out a few issues that can throw a wrench in the Graph machine:

  • Businesses will have to modify their existing social media strategies (many of which have yet to even master traditional social networking without Graph) to optimize for the new search mechanics.
  • Testing the effectiveness of Graph strategies will be much harder than testing Google SEO, since the search results are tailored to the individual.
  • National brands and chains may struggle to show up in results that are focused at the local level.
  • Social connections will carry a higher value than quality content, which may not be what brand fans actually want.

Essentially, Facebook Graph will be a huge boon to businesses that can make the search work for them, in terms of both new demographic data and the potential for tons of word-of-mouth action. However, getting those results will require work and adjustment, as well as an intelligent social media strategy. We here at CEM, at least, are excited to see what happens once Graph leaves beta status and is fully implemented across Facebook.

What is your business doing to prepare for the rollout of Facebook Graph? What demographic data are you hoping to gather more of?


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Beans graduated from Smith College in 2011 with a BA in History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and has worked as a farmer, a cook on a food truck, and an archival assistant. Outside of writing and editing for CEM, Beans enjoys reading voraciously, watching space documentaries, and baking vegan treats. Currently, Beans lives in Salt Lake City, UT.

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