Jan 31, 2013

Facebook Graph Search: Local Opportunities & Tips to Increase Fan Engagement for Brands

fb-graph-search-infographicGraph Search is rolling out amongst Facebook users, and brands are scrambling to figure out what to do.  While this new functionality for Facebook users doesn’t extend to brands — meaning that operators of brand pages on Facebook won’t be able to use Graph Search to find out more about their fans — nonetheless, it still spells opportunity for brands, especially for local businesses (or local locations of national businesses) and for brands catering to special interests.    In those cases, word of mouth and personal recommendations are particularly useful, and being able to see the brands and organizations your friends like could be helpful.    I agree with Max Gladwell’s assessment of the import of Facebook presences for local businesses, in his HuffPo article titled “Graph Search Optimization: What Facebook’s Social Search Means for Brands,”

“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.”

It’s also important to think about how people use a social network.   In my view, Facebook isn’t a decision engine.  People use it to share personal experiences, and to check in on each others’ lives.   So the trick for brands on Facebook will be to double down on local presences, and encourage sharing amongst their friends and customers, but to do so in a way that is fun, compelling and inherently social.   Here are some ideas.

A local tack shop rewards their 'top fans' with a $10 gift certificate each month.

A local tack shop rewards their ‘top fans’ with a $10 gift certificate each month, which they publicize on (where else!) their Facebook page.

Offer your Facebook friends some real utility or entertainment when they become your brand’s fans on Facebook.  Special offers and early-bird alerts about new products or special sales are popular.   Curate and share interesting content to stay top-of-mind with your audience.

Strengthen local ties by partnering with local charities or civic groups, and (of course) using Facebook to solicit ideas, feedback, involvement and support.    Done well, this will increase visibility within your geographic footprint.

I have yet to walk Ambrosia, a patisserie near my home, and not snap a picture of the extravagant pastries they have on display just inside the front door -- and I promptly upload the pics to Facebook, prompting oohs and aahs amongst my friends (and now the readers of this blog.)

I have yet to walk Ambrosia, a patisserie near my home, and not snap a picture of the extravagant pastries they have on display just inside the front door — and I promptly upload the pics to Facebook, prompting oohs and aahs amongst my friends (and now the readers of this blog.)

Create compelling content opportunities for your brand’s fans, by setting up real-life opportunities.  Everyone’s armed with a cell phone.  Get creative with displays – people take and share photos of thing that have a ‘wow’ factor.  Create other opportunities for people to take pictures and share them on Facebook.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget to take and share pictures the brand’s page as well.

If your brand has physical locations, cultivate your Foursquare presence by offering check-in specials and a nice deal for your “mayor.”    Foursquare users often share their activity on Facebook.  Just be sure that on-site staff are trained and are aware of fulfilling check-in deals.

As is always the case when developing strategies for social networks, it’s important to put your audience first.  Spend some time looking at your fans’ behavior, noticing what sort of content they really seem to like and share.  You can also go into your Facebook Insights dashboard for your brand page, and look at “post level” data.  This data actually reveals which posts on your wall generated the most interaction.   Use that information to inform the type of content you post in the future, and keep building on what content is most successful (and appreciated by your Fans,) because those interactions are the ultimate drivers of a brand’s success on Facebook.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

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