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Will Facebook's new search feature shake up the social media marketing game?

When it comes to social media marketing, Facebook's on a roll. For starters, the world's largest social network just disclosed that mobile, its most closely-watched business, is growing fast and now accounts for 41 percent of total revenue. The news comes just weeks after Facebook rolled out one of its most promising services to date: an advanced search engine known as Facebook Graph Search.

Though only available via desktop computer and in the United States for now, Graph Search could upend the digital marketing game. How? By giving marketers access to a previously-unavailable amount of personal detail.

With Graph Search, marketers no longer are limited to ad campaigns based on generic targeted terms like job titles and relationship status. Now they can proactively identify and target users who are, say, fans of "The Bachelorette" and who also shop at Nordstrom (the one caveat: users can use their privacy settings to block their information from appearing in Graph Search results).

Graph Search is principally a vehicle for helping users to learn what others are saying about the latest summer movie or trendy Manhattan bars. But the service could very well turn Facebook into the advertising juggernaut that marketers have long dreamed about. And if the service is extended to mobile? Watch out Google.

The big opportunity

Here are the three most significant ways that Graph Search aims to rewrite the rules of social media marketing:

1.    Graph Search Optimization: Is GSO the new SEO? 

Facebook 'Likes' are now more valuable than ever. The more 'Likes' that a brand's Facebook Page has, the more likely they'll rank highly in a user's search results. Facebook users can search Graph for "Restaurants nearby liked by my friends," when looking for a place to eat or "Shopping and Retail places nearby visited by my Friends." There are a large variety of search terms that users can enter to narrow down what their friends "Like" that they also will probably like. Pages with a lot of 'Likes' will appear in more search results and expose marketers to a broader audience.

2.    Identify the hopes, dreams, 'Likes' and interests of top fans. 

In addition to helping marketers find new customers, Graph Search promises to be a powerful customer retention tool. Graph Search can be used by brands to find out where their Facebook fans work, where they live, what they believe in, are passionate about and what they all have in common. Want to know if a lot of Rolling Stones fans also happen to like Virgin Atlantic? That kind of information can help marketers identify potential prize giveaways or events to sponsor.

3.    Find out which Facebook users who ‘Like’ competing brands and why.

It's a digital marketing professional's ultimate dream: to identify and then target consumers who are loyal to a competitor. Using Graph Search, marketers can gain access to users who "Like" a competitor’s Facebook Page and narrow down what they have in common. Are they part of a particular age group? Are there more men than women or vice versa? Marketers can even find out what movies or music their competitors' fans “Like,” opening the door for even more customer data to consider when designing a digital marketing strategy.

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