What Does Facebook Graph Search Mean for Your Business?

We interrupt our countdown of the Top Ten Customer Complaints in 2012 to write about an important development that could affect your business very soon.

You may have heard that on January 15th, Facebook announced a new feature called GraphSearch and are now wondering, “How will this affect my business?”.

In a nutshell, Graph Search enables Facebook users to search within their social network. This includes social actions taken by their friends such as likes, check ins and ratings as well as actions any user has taken and made public. While most of the discussion about this feature has been about the related privacy issues as well as about how this feature will inevitably affect Facebook’s stock, the potential effect on businesses has not been discussed enough.

From your perspective as a business owner, this new feature brings both good and bad news. Let’s run through two hypothetical scenarios about how this would work:

First, let’s say you own Awesome Pasta Italian Restaurant in Columbus and provide great service to Joanna Smith. Joanna is so happy she likes Awesome Pasta on Facebook, gives a 5 star rating, and posts a really nice status update after checking in to your restaurant: “Truly awesome pasta! Look no further than Awesome Pasta for your next meal in Columbus!“

Joe Smith is friends with Joanna on Facebook. He is planning a visit to Columbus and searches Facebook for restaurants in Columbus that his friends have checked in to. Instead of a typical list of results (as one might see in Google, Yelp, or Facebook’s previous search), Joe sees Awesome Pasta as the first result with its rating because Joanna, his friend, checked in there. After clicking through to Joanna’s check in and reading this ringing endorsement, Joe makes a reservation and even invites Joanna to dinner at Awesome Pasta.

In this scenario, Facebook’s Graph Search feature helped propagate a single check in with a positive review across the social network to bring you a new customer! Sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s consider a different situation:

Customers can now easily see when their friends say great things about your business!
But customers now also see when their friends say bad things about your business!

In the second scenario, Joanna unfortunately had a terrible time at Awesome Pasta. She was seated late, waited over an hour for food, the server was rude, and the food was bad. In short, everything went wrong. Maybe your staff was having a bad day. Maybe you’ve fired that horrible waiter since or changed the menu. That does not matter since Joanna already checked in to Awesome Pasta, provided a 1-star rating, and posted a status update on her Facebook timeline, “Awesome Pasta is not awesome – I had a terrible experience and will not return!

Now when Joe searches for restaurants in Columbus, he will see Joanna’s check in at your restaurant accompanied by a star rating, which is now lower because of Joanna’s 1-star submission, and that terrible status update. Even if Joanna never posts anything about your business, Joe will know she’s been there and can IM (instant message) her to ask how she felt.

In this scenario, Facebook’s Graph Search feature helped spread a single negative review across the social network to ultimately dissuade Joe from visiting Awesome Pasta. To make matters worse, If Joanna made her post public, everyone on Facebook will be able to see it and her negative review could ultimately dissuade even more potential new customers! While in the past Joanna’s post was seen by some friends in their newsfeed (about 15%) and then forgotten, now it will be more accessible in her friends’ searches.

Before Graph Search, this is how businesses would appear when searching for restaurants…

 

Now with Graph Search, businesses search results show more detailed information including which friends have visited and an overall rating.

While for now it doesn’t seem that Graph Search actually directly searches in status content; it only finds likes, check ins, and ratings. However, since those are tied to a specific time and date, it’s easy than ever for users to access the related post. We also suspect that if the feature is a success, search within status content will follow.

In short, Facebook’s Graph Search feature amplifies your customers’ social actions. This means even one bad customer interaction can have a lasting effect on your business making it all the more important that you give customers the best service possible and a private outlet to contact you when things go awry.

It’s great that customers can now also find out about good experiences via Graph Search but as we all know customers are more likely to tell the world about a negative experience than about a positive one; in fact, past research has shown that such customers will tell 9-15 people about a negative experience. However with social media platforms enabling individuals to blast out every quip to all their friends, we think that number is now much higher.

What does all this mean for you?

With Graph Search, customers are now even more likely to find your business online. This means your social presence on Facebook is all the more important. Here are three things you should do to ensure this new feature serves your business well:

1. Make sure to keep your Facebook page up to date. Update your hours and specials regularly. Confirm that the phone number, website, and address listed for your business are correct (Graph Search displays a map in the search results as seen pictured above).

2. Encourage customers to check in to your establishment and to rate you on Facebook. You can provide an incentive (e.g. free coffee refill for checking in) or simply try asking first. Explain how it would be helpful to you to get found by more people, and you’ll be surprised that customers who like you may oblige.

3. Realize that every customer interaction now matters more than ever. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for OwnerListens. That way, you can give customers an outlet for any issue before they post anything on their Facebook page. And, once you solve their problem they are actually more likely to become loyal customers so in your response ask them to like and rate you on Facebook.

As if you needed more reasons to use OwnerListens, check out the pics below and ask yourself – which would you rather have happen for your business? The scathing public update by one of your customers shown here for all their friends to see, or the honest complaint brought to your attention immediately, privately, and directly through OwnerListens?

Search Graph will now show negative customer reviews like the one above to all of their friends!
Use OwnerListens and give your customers the option to privately send you feedback and address any concerns in real-time!

If you are already registered for OwnerListens, make sure your OwnerListens signs/stickers are clearly visible for your customers to see so they know to send you feedback directly, privately, and anonymously.

Need help signing up or need more stickers? Email us at [email protected].

Consumers: If you have a bad experience, make sure to tell the owner privately and anonymously with the OwnerListens app so s/he can address your feedback directly. You deserve the best service possible and owners deserve the opportunity to give it to you. Give them a chance with OwnerListens like in the example above!

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