March 09, 2013

Facebook Graph Search: Changing the Meaning of Brand Affinity?

The original Article was written by me on Social Samosa
From the time it has been out, a lot of people initially had misunderstood ‘How Facebook graph search could be the next ‘Google Killer.’ By now we all know how it is truly not going to be a Google Killer per se. And in fact how it should be rather perceived as another tool within your peer user group to help you find interests supposedly based on common interests of your friends or what your friends have liked within your network.
Fortunately I had the opportunity of getting it and trying it out and by now most of us also would have had a chance to try it out. And certainly, it is quite intuitive within the context of the Facebook ecosystem and the way it queries search results is something which will bevery useful for brands who want to create contextually aware engagement with the users of their specific demographics.
So I take a look at the bigger picture and how it will affect brands and what is it that brands should really ‘do’ when it comes to Facebook Graph Search.
So, what does Facebook say about FGS to brands?
The search bar first returns the top search suggestions, including people, Pages, apps, places, groups, and suggested searches. People can search for things like restaurants near them, hotels in places they want to travel to, photos posted by Pages they like, or games that their friends like to play.
These search suggestions take people to a unique results page. The results returned are based on factors that include information that has been shared by your business and the connections of the person searching.
As has been the case for some time, we may also make search suggestions in the search bar that then can trigger web searches. Web searches will display Bing results and Bing ads, similar to results on
Pages and apps can still use sponsored results, which appear to people whether or not they have Graph Search (sponsored results have been globally available since August 2012). There are no new ad formats available today.
What do I say?
While all of the above is a great way to look at FGS and eventually may work wonders probably if the understanding of ‘Like’ on Facebook really meant what it says it is. Or Relationships are the way app developers build in their apps, pages while using Open Graph.
If “Facebook had launched in 2013, and immediately graph search was introduced, then the concept of ‘Like’ would be much deeper than it is meant to be amongst users as of now.
We all remember how ‘Like’ wasn’t even ‘Like’ before and how the ecosystem changed your ‘Interests in your about me / profile to actual Fan / Brand Pages and tagged them as ‘Likes.’
And that in my opinion is the ‘One major fundamental flaw in this entire aspect and eco-system.’
This also means, we can’t go ‘Back to the future’ and fix this! This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to try out or experiment with it. After all that’s why it is in beta. However I thought about certain aspects of this and tried to give some deeper meaning and thought to the brand, while I completely understand that not everything we do in advertising or social media should be scrutinized down to the tee always. Sometimes you just got to go with your gut, and I’ve done that many a times.
Nonetheless a perspective that I had to put out there through this blog and probably some of the questions that I’ve got in my mind would have answers out there amongst all of you.
“What does a consumer/user have in mind when he goes on a ‘Liking Anything Spree?’ Also, when the initial ‘Like’ button was brought into effect, what guideline did it give to the consumer especially when it came to ‘Liking’ Brand pages? Now I’m not saying that consumers have been tricked into this or are gullible enough to fall for this shit.
So it is as important for brands to know this concept before they actually start beefing up their profiles and ensuring that
We need to discount for some of those ‘Fans’ and need to ensure that when we do the new media planning campaigns, especially the ones that involve Facebook Graph Search based options when they roll out. Brands need to understand that ‘Just going on about’ getting random Likes due to search may not be as good as first,
To be absolutely sure what information will go away corresponding to the TG being influenced by FGS
Ensuring that the existing communication and information that is on their page is optimized for that.
Lastly, making sure that the information updated on your page should be more transparent, complete and avoid truthiness of any sort.
Of course, there’ll be a lot of gaming that might happen. Again we all know how SEO/SEM page rank algorithms and Panda worked and how Google keeps taking the edge away from marketers.
For all we know, an average Facebook Joe likes just about every damn thing on the face of the earth or did so up until now… Understanding relevance in the economic circumstances is least of his concern. Adjudicating whether the brand is good or the fact that he has an affinity to the brand because it is good in terms of its service / value that they provide is the least of their concern.
Some questions we ask ourselves if the consumer has reached that deeper level of understanding and even if he hasn’t, just like we do television ads, Facebook media buy is always lucrative and about truthiness. Well, mostly…
In today’s world ‘Brand Affinity’ is a very tricky business. As I might have spoken about it before, especially with convergent media focusing a lot on crisper communication, shorter retention span and most importantly lines between mainline, digital and social blurring inthe world of marketing, it becomes harder to really set pace with the consumer especially when it comes with creating ‘Brand Loyalty’
That is when brands especially if they are competing with each other, start adopting many tools, many machines of communication, trickery and forgery to blur these lines and resort to say a form of ‘truthiness’ which a lot of us know emerged way back in the ‘Mad Men’ era and has continued from then till today. Advertising has sowed a seed that has become very difficult for ‘Brands’ to undo and actually communicate what their brand really stands for or be percieved as.
So just as it does with ‘advertising’ / ‘branding’ same se tof rules apply to utilizing social search tools such as FGS or for that matter ‘enabling brands being socially searchable via Google+.
So today if a Facebook User really ‘Likes’ a brand… There’s more to the fact that he’s actually ‘Liked’ THE BRAND… Nonetheless, brands of course get satisfied by that fact and would even go to the extent of considering it a ‘Real feedback’ for their purpose. No deep diving or meaning or consideration into the idea of whether the audience they are dealing with on Facebook are really the consumer or aficionados who are their real ‘advocates’.
So this is what I ask
Is it a challenge for brands to really understand their brand affinity. And will that really drive further and get a brand to be more closer to a consumer via Facebook Graph Search, based on its relationships with the open graph of consumers, and consumers friends…
While we all know from a broader picture even from a tangible or intangible means of looking at Likes to drive ROI or for that matter brand awareness is still as native as
‘How many people ‘Like’ your page?
‘How many people are ‘Talking about your page.’
At least for a majority of the brands, and I’m just being the least unassuming based on my interaction within the business.
So what do you think about this whole situation with FGS Now? Especially when it comes to it driving ‘brand affinity based on search within Facebook ecosystem.’ Will FGS drive it or brands have to do much beyond just looking at FGS itself being the promoter of their brand within peer groups?
Do share with me your thoughts…

Srinivas has been a communications professional for over 10 years, and has been blogging since 2005. He has worked with the likes of Social Wavelength, now Mirum India, (A JWT Group Company) for four years and now Heads Learning and Development & Analytics at Social Kinnect: A Digital Marketing Agency in Mumbai. His passion for Advertising, Creativity, Social & Digital Marketing helps make a difference for the brands they work with. 

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