Facebook recently debuted their Graph Search functionality, and I was lucky enough to get it rolled out to me yesterday morning. Upon getting to play with the new search bar, I found myself impressed – it’s clearly a better interface, and while perhaps not a “game changer”, it definitely improves upon the ability to search on Facebook, and it has the potential to be built upon quite nicely.
One of the first things that struck me, though, is how this new tool can easily be used for relevant contact intelligence gathering, e-mail finding, quick messaging, and therefore, content marketing. When using the search bar, you have the ability to check the employee roster for any company, simply by inputting “people who work at COMPANY” in the input field.
Being able to search for employees isn’t something entirely new, though, and LinkedIn has those kinds of capabilities already. However, you’ll quickly see that Graph Search is a lot more elegant than LinkedIn, and being a “personal” network, it allows you to pull out additional interest insights at a quick glance that you probably can’t get from an online business resume.
Facebook also won’t tell its users that you’re looking at their profile, unlike LinkedIn, so there is the benefit of anonymous intelligence gathering that you can’t get elsewhere as well.
Looking at the above image, we can quickly see the power this kind of search holds. We immediately see friends I have in common with SEOmoz employees, which almost always will be stronger than general connections on LinkedIn.
That quick data point offers a nice warm lead if I wanted to get introduced or pitch a company on one of my content pieces, or develop an influencer relationship that could pay dividends in the future. Similarly, if I was looking for a job online, it would make for an easy, good reference internally.
Messaging with Graph Search
If you have a network connection in common, you’ll be able to send a free message to the person you’re interested in contacting. If not, Facebook charges a variable sum that seems to be dependent on the number of subscribers/followers the user has.
But for those without followers, such as a random employee of CNET, the cost is only $1. For the more famous and followed user, such as Sharon Vakin, a video host at CNET with 100,000 subscribers, there is a message fee of $100.
For anyone who can put two and two together, all it takes to contact a big influencer for free is to create a network connection through one of their friends, which is often quite simple to do, especially if you do some research as to who seems to accept thousands of connections.
Messaging Through Facebook is Easy – But Not Preferred
Getting in front of people at your target company on Facebook is ridiculously easy – but it may not be your ideal mode of contact. I for one would see a request here as somewhat creepy and would in general recommend avoiding using it for outreach, unless as a last gasp effort of reaching your target.
This may change in the future as Facebook takes on more LinkedIn-esque characteristics, but for now, it is still most definitely the case.
Benefits for Outreach – Intelligence Gathering
Through Graph Search, you can quickly find any person’s interests, gleaming quick insights into how they think, what kinds of things you might have in common, and more. When reaching out to a potential prospect, this can obviously come in handy – but I would be careful to not come off as knowing more than you should in your initial contact.
For example, if you look at my likes page, you can see I really enjoy Sightglass Coffee (so much so I have it shipped to me from San Francisco), but why in the world would you already know that when cold pitching me?
However, since I do like TechCrunch, it might make sense to cite a TechCrunch article as a reference for whatever contact pitch you’re using – as I probably see that as a place with quality writing, and one that I might trust as a reference if you pass along a positive press piece about your company.
Similarly, the quick bio snapshot helps us gleam quick data points about a person – their personality, where they live, where they went to school and for what subject, and a general estimation of their age.
If you really want to get crazy, you can explore any employee’s photos as well, allowing you to learn more about personality and interests.
Benefits for Outreach – Contact Finding
For larger companies, using the Facebook Graph Search refinement functionality to find the right person is essential. For example, if I wanted to get press from a writer from The New York Times, I’d use the advanced search functionality to refine things to job descriptions that make sense – such as “columnist”, “editor”, “writer”, and etc. You can refine the search in crazy ways, although you probably won’t need to for this kind of process.
If you’re having difficulty finding the person you want at a big company, sometimes the best bet is to start on another profile. It is likely that however a person defines themselves on LinkedIn will also be how they describe themselves on Facebook, so simply search for their title there back on Facebook in order to find them. Of course, this is rather time intensive, so make sure you are undergoing this process only for truly high-value prospects you want more detail on before contacting.
When exploring users “About” pages on Facebook, you’ll get their related information and contact data, when they list it. Sometimes, Google can be rough for finding the appropriate contact data or the websites of many of these people, so Facebook is a nice alternative for locating publicy available information.
For example, here, I find the contact e-mail of a freelance writer at VentureBeat. If that wasn’t available, I might use the additional links he offers as warm leads into finding his direct e-mail address.
Advanced Intelligence Gathering
At its core, Facebook Graph Search’s biggest new advantage is for intelligence gathering. Never have we been able to gather as much data, in an easy way, about a company and its employees as we can now, all in one place.
We can slice and dice this data in various ways – whether it’s finding a specific employee or position at a big company, or adding detail to someone we already know about, or learning more about the person about to interview us at a company – there is really quite a diversity of uses for this new, easily accesible information.
However, the ethics of this knowledge being publicly available – and easily searchable – is debatable, and it is a debate that may just arise with the arrival of these kinds of capabilities. Until that negative pushback gets loud enough to create change, though, Facebook Graph Search should be an essential part of every digital marketer’s toolkit.
For now, I’m mostly interested in additional ways Facebook Graph Search might be helpful to businesses online. Are you already using it to your benefit? How will you in the future? What are the weaknesses? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. And if you don’t have access yet, I really suggest you ask for Beta access immediately.