Facebook recently announced Graph Search, an advanced search engine that allows users to create more dynamic, free-form searches, much like the Google search engine.
I just typed in "restaurants in Boston that my friends like" into Graph Search (I had an early invite, it's not public yet), and more than 100 restaurants show up in a list. I can then sort those results by quite a few things, including only restaurants my family likes, or only ones that a specific person likes.
Over the next few months as Facebook's Graph Search unrolls to the public, users will start to use it as a method for getting first-hand recommendations. For small businesses, it means that optimizing your profile for search and getting more likes is important right now, today, this very moment.
To prepare your page for this new world of Facebook search, simply follow these eight steps:
1. Claim your page now, if you haven't already.
If you don’t have a Facebook page, Facebook has probably already created a placeholder community page for you. People may very well already be liking it, checking in, and uploading photos. If your excuse for not having a page was to "control your brand", then the best way to do it now is to claim your page and start using it.
You can "claim" your page by clicking the cog icon in the upper right-hand side of the profile and click "Is this your business?"
2. Fill out every information box they give you.
If you're a restaurant, don't you want to show up when someone looks for restaurants in their area? The best way to get listed in search results is to give Facebook as much to work with as possible. Fill out your entire profile in as much detail as possible.
3. Don't forget your address.
Once your page is jam-packed with information about your business, double-check that your business address is listed on the “About” section of your page. You can also input your GPS coordinates (if you know them) for even more precise searchability. This geo-location data helps you show up in search results when people look for places to eat or shop nearby.
4. Delete duplicate entries.
Some pages, even ones that have been up for a while, have duplicate pages. This is the result of faulty Facebook wiring, and also because users can create community pages for businesses that aren't yet on Facebook. There's no instant way to delete duplicate pages, but you can report any duplicates easily by using the cog icon again and saying "report this place".
5. Keep trying to get likes.
Graph Search will become the centerpiece of the Facebook experience, especially the mobile experience. Your potential customers will soon be using Graph Search to find out what their friends like more than ever before. The reason this matters to local businesses is that while they once may have been able to look for a Chinese food restaurant in Boston on Facebook, they can now look for one that their friends have "liked", which influences their decision to visit.
6. Incentivize community engagement and participation.
You definitely still want Facebook "likes", but that's just the one-dimensional first-step. To add dimension to the search results that users will soon be getting, develop your page even more. For example, if you incentivize check-ins, then you'll have more people whose friends have "checked-in" to your business, thus increasing a visitor's chance of checking in also. Since your photos show up in search too, wouldn't it be nice if people were posting what they just bought, or ate, at your business? Whether it’s a discount, a freebie, or just a high-five, giving your customers rewards for completing these simple tasks will pay off big time with Graph Search.
7. Snoop around the graph.
Do some searching for yourself. Type in things that your customers might be looking for and see how you show up in search results. When graph is available for mobile, check it there too, to see how results and perceptions may vary. You may even find that a few of your own friends haven't liked the page yet -- get on that!
8. Spend a little dough on advertising.
To get more likes quickly, and engagement on posts that will pump up your brand in the Graph, spend a few bucks on Facebook advertising. It's an incredibly cheap platform compared to most, and can have long-term benefits to graph search and your "likeability". It will also familiarize you with the playing ground once Facebook undoubtedly puts ads in search results, in a Google-like fashion.
Is there anything else you've discovered worth sharing? Let us know in the comments.