So Facebook unveiled their plans for Graph Search back in January. My initial response was “that is so cool!”. The capabilities look pretty awesome but as a marketer the question is “How does this affect me and my business?”.

What is Graph Search?

Facebook Graph Search is a long-term project that the Facebook development team are going to be working on for years to come. At the moment it’s in very limited beta, with a teeny amount of users currently having access, mainly people who work for Facebook probably! The idea is to allow users to search Facebook in a whole new way, using search terms that wouldn’t work in a regular search engine, for example “Restaurants my friends like in London”. They also partner with Bing to produce search results that do not exist within the Facebook ether, for example, “what’s the weather like in Boston?” For more information take a look at Facebook’s own info. They have a couple of videos on there to explain what Graph Search is and what it will be able to do.

It looks immediately obvious that Graph Search relies heavily on likes and connections. How else will Facebook know which bands you like unless you have actually clicked on a like button at some point? This is only going to work if all Facebook users are very active and like on Facebook everything that they like in real life. This is going to increase the need for businesses and brands to have a Facebook page and to encourage fans to like their page and interact.

What will be the benefits for marketers?

Until Graph Search goes mainstream it’s going to be hard to tell what the benefits will be because it will depend on user interaction and activity. However, we can speculate. Graph Search could be used to gain insights into what interests your fans to help you to tailor content towards them and maintain engagement. It could also be used to formulate new product ideas, for example, you make headphones and learn that many of your fans also like to snowboard so your next product could be an ear warmer headband with built in headphones. You could look for connections between people who like different things and build your customer persona. Mashable’s Emily Price found that people who like Star Wars like KFC, engineers like The Big Bang Theory and Mashable readers like the film Inception. These sorts of insights may not be particularly useful but they give you an idea into the kind of knowledge that it’s possible to gain from Facebook Graph Search.

So what now?

Well as I mentioned above, Graph Search is in limited beta at the moment while the Facebook dev guys get it perfect before rolling it out to the masses. Until it’s available to everyone it’s business as usual. All we can do is keep reading the blogs written by those lucky few who have access and learn from them the possibilities that Graph Search offers. In the meantime, if your customers are on Facebook and you want to leverage Graph Search in the future you need to be hosting a growing, active community on Facebook so that you are in a position to take advantages of the changes as they come about. You’ll need more fans, more comments and more social engagement. Only through use will we see what Facebook Graph Search really means for marketers. So all I can say for now is watch this space, but don’t hold your breath! It could be a while before we get to play with it.