The Importance of Social Engagement and the Impact of Facebook Graph Search

Social Engagement: While engagement has always been the holy grail of social marketing, it has now become even more important with the introduction of Graph Search from Facebook.  The major difference in this core concept that Graph Search introduces is a shift in the importance of this engagement from National to Local.  Graph Search is Facebook’s attempt to develop a sort of social search engine that compiles results based on the activities of the community rather than traditional search algorithms.  

Where this becomes truly intriguing is when you realize that the community activity that this tool is using to compile results, effectively comes down to social engagement metrics.  Facebook is looking at data composed of check in’s, status updates, page activity, likes, and other indicators that the community is “validating” the value of a particular result.  With Facebook allowing these metrics to determine the way that brands and pages are listed within search, it becomes a critical piece in the social discovery process.

This shift has dual implications; on the positive side it allows brands and pages to be more in control of where they show up in social discovery, much like SEO has done for traditional search.  However, on the negative side it requires a relatively major shift in social strategy and not surprisingly places emphasis on the utilization of social strategies including paid methodology, an expected focus for Facebook since it went public.  The introduction of Graph Search combined with some current and anticipated layout changes to the structure of Facebook which underline the significance of rich media elements like photos and video, and you start to see that Facebook is changing the game and forcing brands to work hard to earn their social payoff.  It is no longer enough to simply have fans, a challenge of its own, but you must now find ways to get them involved in a meaningful way.

While this tool is still very early and information is becoming available at a slow pace, it is becoming clear that Graph Search is a major focus of Facebook and while it may go through various iterations it is something that brands and marketers should prepare for now as it is here to stay.  Graph Search is available in beta currently and data is still limited, but marketers can still begin to make the necessary shifts based on what is already known.  It is universally accepted that Graph Search will create a shift from large corporate social presence value to a more locally focused and engagement centric model.  This means that marketers should be looking to develop smaller more localized presences wherever they can and start to establish strategies to grow their communities and get them involved.  The importance of a National presence will not disappear, in fact it is perhaps even more important now, but adding a layer of localization to take advantage of that National presence becomes critical.  It also means that brands that have fallen behind and failed to build their social presence will need to jump in sooner rather than later or risk being left even further behind.  Strategies to get started can include:

  • Encouraging organization and system wide strategies at the top level of the brand
  • Claiming location pages on Facebook
    • Brands with many locations should look to the Parent-Child tool offered by Facebook
    • Fully optimizing Facebook Pages
    • Running ads to grow the community
    • Establishing a clear social strategy for the brand
    • Developing a content strategy and posting schedule with a focus on photos and video as well as engagement heavy content
    • Develop promotional plans such as contests and giveaways (being sure to follow Facebook’s strict promotional guidelines)
    • Educate employees on the importance of encouraging in store and mobile social engagement such as check in’s and reviews

One of the most important ways that a large brand or a system that relies on a National brand with local stores can begin to leverage these new social principles is to operate in a top down environment.  This type of system develops the brands “social value” at the corporate level and cascades that philosophy down to each location with each store building their own presence based on the corporate initiative.  This holds many advantages in that it provides a much needed support structure at the local level where it is often difficult for marketers to “get started”.  In addition to this it maintains a total brand feel across a large system and helps avoid a collection of “rogue” social identities.  Perhaps most significant of all is that it develops a brand voice and sets the users expectation of what they will experience from connecting with a brand whether at the corporate or local level.  All this contributes to setting the stage for a rock solid social strategy that can come together and work together for the benefit of all parties.  Any system that relies on a National brand with a local execution would be well served to push for a corporate strategy that they can build from.

While this is a shift that is still in its infancy and will require an agile approach as things settle, two things are currently known for sure; local social presence is going to become an even more critical part of the overall marketing strategies for brands and getting your customers to engage with your brand on top of simply connecting with it will become the golden egg of social media, only now it will help drive new business more than it ever has before.  Whether identifying and allocating internal resources to dedicate to this challenge or finding the right external partner to help you get up to speed, the time to address this is now as it will only become harder as time goes on and competition for the top social search spots grows.

Since joining Aviatech in 2010, Kelly has played a leading role in adding new services to the agency’s core capabilities, including the development of award-winning advergames and sweepstakes initiatives, digital PR, and paid social advertising. He has overseen the implementation of new technologies to help streamline departmental operations, and supervised a departmental expansion as it grew by more than 50%. Kelly has also contributed to the agency’s thought leadership with published articles and appearances at seminars and client conferences.

 Kelly’s former positions include Strategist at Omnicom network OMD, the world’s top global media brand, where he was involved in developing the emerging media department; and  Senior Program Manager at Performics while owned by Google, where he interfaced directly with all major social networking sites. His work with Facebook directly impacted the introduction of cutting edge applications to their ad platform. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from DePaul University of Chicago.

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