Can Facebook search really help you reach your social media marketing goals? Unlike Twitter, Facebook doesn’t have a separate advanced search function. All we’ve got is the “Search Facebook” bar in the top left hand corner.
It wasn’t always like this.
Back in 2013, Facebook released a natural language search engine called Graph Search. The tool rolled out over the next year, starting with the United States. Digital marketing publications including Social Media Examiner, Marketing Land and the Moz Blog wrote about its potential.
Yet, when you look for Graph Search today it is mysteriously absent. Most articles about it date from 2013 to 2015.
What Happened to Graph Search?
Graph Search was revolutionary. It was a powerful, semantic natural language search that tapped into one of the biggest databases of people on the planet, pulling information from posts and personal profiles.
You could search for people and posts based on specific correlations. Recruiters could try a string like “software engineers who live in Boston, graduated MIT, and like Python.” Marketers could search for ideal clients with strings like “vegans who live in New York, work in retail, and like running.”
The results were both incredible and creepy. In the early days, Graph Search had very little filtering. Many saw this as an invasion on privacy. Privacy concerns aren’t a new thing on social media but posts like this one showing the dark side of the search functionality took them to the next level.
Life after Graph Search
These days, if I try typing in a search string like “people from Boston who like ice cream and chocolate,” I’m greeted with a sad face and zero results.
I know that there are people from Boston who love these things but Facebook will no longer help me find them.
Part of this is because Facebook quietly killed some of Graph’s functionality and replaced them with the search we’ve got today. Plus, Facebook users are becoming more discerning. We are using tighter permission controls and limiting access to information.
Using Facebook Search Today for Your Business
Although Facebook Search is definitely a “light” version of what it once once, marketers can still use it effectively.
1. Market research
You can still use natural language strings to find people who like certain pages. Let’s say you’ve found that 50% of your ideal client base tend to love HubSpot.
You can try a search string like “people who like HubSpot” to find some of those people and check out what other interest they have. Facebook will show you the results in tiers, starting with your friends who like Hubspot, friends of friends who like Hubspot and finally ending with strangers.
Facebook search is designed to help you find information that’s relevant to you and your social circles first, before moving outwards.
Why is this great for marketers? You can use it for a few different research exercises, including:
- Checking out the competition. Use the results to find out what other interests they have that you can tap into.
- Building up your ideal client avatar. Search the interests you know they’ve got and find out what else they are into. This is really useful for building up targeted Facebook ad campaigns.
2. Competitive analysis
There are some great ways to spy on your competition using Facebook. You can use the “pages to watch” feature or just like them on Facebook and study their posts. But, using Facebook search can help you take your fledgling James Bond skills to next level, no tuxedo required.
Just type in the name your competitor along with a term you are interested in learning more about.
If you are running a promotional campaign for a sustainable retail business you can research how competitors like Everlane market their sales. The search results will bring posts from the brand, from fans mentioning the brand in a public place as well as posts and articles about it giving you a much deeper insight than scrolling through their page. On top of that, you can search posts by year and study how their strategy has evolved!
3. Hashtag research
Hashtags aren’t just for Twitter and Instagram. You can use Facebook to check out who is using specific hashtags, how they use them and how audiences respond to them.
The #smallbusinesswins hashtag brought up a surprising number of publicly available posts.
Start with your current list of hashtags or some of your favorites from other platforms and see how they are doing on Facebook. This can be a great way get exposure for more of your posts and give your Facebook page a little boost.
Using Facebook Search the Right Way
Graph search was incredibly powerful but its scope was a little problematic. There is such a thing as being able to find too much information. Some people have tried to revive it through third party apps but to be honest, I’d advice staying away from those. It’s best to only access the information your customers actually want you to see. Anything else can cross that fine line and shatter trust.
Facebook’s new search is more moderate, largely built to help users make the most of their Facebook experience and find old posts and photos easily. But, with a bit of patience and some know-how, social media marketers can use this iteration of search to get to know their ideal clients even better and run stronger campaigns.
Which of these Facebook search tips are you most apt to try? Let us know in the comments!