Dealership MarketingIndustry News & Trends

Dealers – Are You Prepared for Facebook Graph Search?

 

On January 15th, Facebook announced a feature launch that dramatically changes the way consumers use the world’s most popular social networking site. Facebook Graph Search (FGS) is a natural-language search tool which, to date, has only been released in Beta. Currently, not all Facebook content is searchable, and only a small group of people have been allowed to try the new tool. Luckily, on Friday, I had the opportunity to be a part of this Beta group.

I began my experience with FGS by searching for some popular segments, “restaurants my friends like”, “friends who work at Dominion Enterprises”, and so on. Facebook was smart to release this in a limited Beta, because not all of the data is searchable. However, that did not deter me from helping the dealer community get a head start on preparations for this new search tool.

The good news is that FGS offers dealers a huge opportunity.

Right now, many dealers struggle to market themselves well on Facebook. Many dealers still use personal pages (friend profile) for branding purposes, instead of a business page. Unfortunately, personal pages are nearly invisible within FGS.

Why is that?

Individuals search for businesses using categories on FGS. These categories are created by Facebook just like the old-fashioned Yellow Pages. Select them well, and you can create far more visibility for your business.

Here’s an example of a dealer using a personal page, instead of a Business (Fan) page:

Daniels Chevrolet on Facebook
Daniels Chevrolet on Facebook

Unfortunately, due to the personal profile used in the example above, this particular dealership cannot be found in any searchable business categories. Facebook thinks this dealership is a person. It is only through business pages that dealers can choose categories to identify themselves. Additionally, many dealerships listed as businesses are only identifiable under a single category. This severely limits indexing opportunities.

A search on FGS for “car dealership” brought back some local results. These dealers have done a good job of setting up business pages which are listed in the proper category: “car dealership”.

Notice in this example that Bob Pulte Chevrolet is not only categorized under “car dealership” but also in a second category for “automotive repair”. This allows Bob Pulte Chevrolet to pull up in another search:

Facebook Graph Search automotive repair

There’s a problem when searching for specifics such as oil changes or tires, as evidenced below:

Facebook Graph search tire dealers

Facebook Graph search oil lube

In the same way that some dealers don’t properly index their websites for fixed ops, I struggled to find franchised dealers who had added categories for “oil lube & filter service” or “tire dealer”. Not surprisingly, the same problem exists when searching for “car parts & accessories” or “auto body shop”

Facebook Graph search car parts

Facebook Graph search body shop

All of these searches on Facebook Graph Search were within fixed categories that Facebook has defined for automotive businesses. Unfortunately, most franchised dealers were only listed under one or two categories. Below is a rare example where three categories were listed for a single dealership. Hudiburg Toyota has done this very well and is prepared for FGS.

Hudiburg Toyota on Facebook

Facebook Graph Search will only become more important as the technology is refined and additional users are brought on board. In order to take advantage of this new marketing opportunity, dealers need to follow three simple steps:

  1. Check to see if your dealership is listed as a person or business.
  2. If the dealership is under a personal “friend profile” page, convert it to a business page right away.
  3. Once listed as a Facebook business page, select the relevant business categories. Identify your dealership in such a way that individuals can find both vehicle inventory and services.

Get it prepared today.

What do you think..will Facebook Graph Search soon become important to your dealers digital marketing investments?

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    vickioneill
  • January 29, 2013
Great post, @GeorgeNenni! I did a preliminary post on the topic as well although you've got the inside access to show examples. Nice! I think Facebook Graph Search will definitely be a viable Google contender in "search engine" market share especially with local businesses.  For car dealers, FGS will enhance the Facebook user experience resulting in more exposure and engagement with a relevant audience, IF they have their business profile updated.  What will be interesting is what Facebook will require of business profiles in order to be "first", maintain placement in search results, seniority, engagements, etc. If there's demand for dedication beyond today's post standards (quality, type of, frequency), this may have a financial and/or resource impact that dealerships will need to consider.Also, take a look at these stats showing Google at 86.3% and Facebook at 1.4% search engine market share. http://www.karmasnack.com/about/search-engine-market-share/  I'm curious how much FGS will change these percentages...
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    emiltsch
  • January 29, 2013
George, nice overview & examples of Graph Search.
 
I'm already a big fan of GS; I love the initial concept and acknowledge it's early quirkiness. I believe Facebook is scaling this out as smart as possible by positioning it as one of their primary elements. This is going to require a behavior shift from users as they begin to understand how these types of natural language searches differ from the standard Google search everyone is familiar with using. 
 
As users begin to realize more of their activities are searchable, they'll put more thought, or weight, into the people, places and things they attach to their own identity to. I also hope this creates a new way of thinking for brands and marketers with regards to how they go about connecting with users - this will definitely create a divide between the creative marketers and those lazy enough to resort to "Like & Share" tactics.
 
And, I totally agree with your recommendations. If you're still operating your dealership's Facebook page as a personal profile, you need to take a step back and evaluate your social processes as well.  
 
Everyone had the same opportunity to prepare for the changes happening with G+ last year & those who waited are quickly realizing they may be a little late to that party as well - don't let that happen to you with Graph Search.
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    dealerrefresh
  • January 29, 2013
George, great write up and search examples. Thanks for sharing here on DealerRefresh. 
 
"As users begin to realize more of their activities are searchable, they'll put more thought, or weight, into the people, places and things they attach to their own identity to. I also hope this creates a new way of thinking for brands and marketers with regards to how they go about connecting with users - this will definitely create a divide between the creative marketers and those lazy enough to resort to "Like & Share" tactics." 
 
Just when we thought we had it under control. Seems like more work....
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    KevinFrye
  • January 29, 2013
Great article George. I would like to see the fixed categories that Facebook has defined for automotive businesses, but the link in your article is not working - could you please share that again?
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    georgenenni
  • January 29, 2013
Kevin,
 
Great question, and my answer will be based on what dealerships have chosen so far.  If you do a proper search for: Automotive Pages, FBGS will returns results for the many sub-categories that are in the automotive top level category.  I scrolled through nearly a hundred, and here are the sub-categories I found:
 
Car dealership
Oil lube & filter service
Tire dealer
Repair Service
Car parts & accessories
Auto body shop
Automobile leasing
Automotive consultants
Shopping & retail
 
These were all under the category of Automotive.  It did show a number of Motorcycle sub-categories under the Automotive top-level category, but I left those out for relevance.
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    vickioneill
  • January 29, 2013
You had me at "natural language search" :) With fixed categories, it seems to be taking on a "yellow pages" feel. One issue with YP (print and online) was/is the "search" capability (headings or categories) became un-natural once online search took off. From my early days marketing for a YP company, once people searched online using words that made sense to them, the requests to add print categories increased dramatically (making print search less valuable and meaningful). If Facebook is using fixed categories, they should also allow intuitive search. If nothing else, it would be a good test!
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 29, 2013
Thanks for the thorough writeup, George. Graph Search just went live with my personal FB account, and I'm looking forward to getting more familiar with this...
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    georgenenni
  • January 29, 2013
I agree Vicki, FB will need to focus on natural search mapping to these categories., since consumers search in many different ways.  I tried a lot of car and dealer-related searches, most didn't map, but a few did.  Searching for "where to buy a car" brought up the relevant categories of: "Car Dealerships", "Automotive Repair", and "Car Parts & Accessories".
 
Eric raises great points below, the value of connecting with consumers and building a Social base, becomes that much more valuable.
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Thanks for the insight George.  I never understood why there are so many dealers that are on Facebook as a personal page.  It will now come back and bite them where the sun don't shine, which is fine with me since there are several that are around me set up with their pages like that.  
 
It looks like you can only have 6 sub-catagories?  Is that what everyone else is seeing?
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    Aaron Wirtz
  • January 29, 2013
Let's add "Car Wash & Detailing" to the list of subcategories. :-)
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    georgenenni
  • January 31, 2013
I received some great comments and questions, and wanted to share some additional research I’ve come across.  Some of the early testers for FBGS talked about the usefulness when traveling to a new city, checking for “friends who live in Atlanta” and gets connected when you arrive.  A few folks felt the design style was heading toward a style like the old AskJeeves.com. My Facebook contacts said they are very much in test mode, and very little has been determined.  For car dealers, Facebook is trying to determine how many categories they will allow dealers to index. One idea is to give retailers every subcategory in a top-level category.  For instance, giving dealers all subcategories in the top-level Automotive category.
 
One conclusion is that Facebook’s future play will be around the Nearby function available on the Facebook mobile app.  Facebook considers Nearby to be both the most useful and unknown function in Facebook mobile.  Currently on Nearby, Automotive is not a category, but likely will be in the future.   However, “car dealerships” or “automotive” pulls up businesses in that category.  The search algorithm for the Nearby function seems to be based on location, likes, ratings, categories, and friend-network relevance.  Since Facebook is clearly under the privacy microscope, they will likely stick to indexing only on public information.  Facebook Graph Search and Nearby offer a unique way for people to search for businesses that friends care about.  I’m extremely interested in how dealers can best prepare for the future of this new platform.  Thanks again for your comments and question, keep them coming and I’ll try my best to track down the information.
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    vickioneill
  • February 1, 2013
@georgenenni Thanks for the follow-up and providing updates on the topic. It will become increasingly important for us to understand car shoppers decision making process and how dealers (and their marketing investment) play a part in the mix. Here's an article I read this morning regarding the growth of hyper local this year. Whether it's FGS, FBN, Google, geo-fencing, mobile or other local targeting efforts, it's never been more important than now to make sure your brand is easily "found" via mobile. And once there, it will require ongoing monitoring and management to maintain placement. FGS has certainly taken the way people find information to the next level. http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/advertising/14703.html
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@Jim Bell
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@Jim Bell
 I can only enter 3 sub-categories....is there a way to add more?  Is there a different place?
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    georgenenni
  • February 6, 2013
@hawkchev  @Jim Bell  That is the most number of categories I've seen dealers be a part of.  I think FB is considering adding more, but no idea of ETA.
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