Facebook’s new Graph Search feature provides a new challenge – and opportunity – to organisations looking to drive business from social media. Essentially Graph Search, which the social network has revealed it is currently beta testing, allows users to carry out smarter searches of content shared by their Facebook friends to give more detailed results.

So you can find out what restaurants your friends in a particular town recommends or find contacts who work at businesses or have specific interests, for example.

How does Graph Search work?

Graph Search adds a multidimensional angle to search – rather than simply looking for a restaurant in Cambridge or Birmingham, as you would in Google, Graph Search allows you to find restaurants in a city or town that have been Liked by your friends. Or even your single friends who live in the area.

Depending on how it evolves then, Graph Search could eventually become important to many enterprises, especially service companies (from plumbers to solicitors) as well those in entertainment, food and travel that gain business through recommendation.

This personalisation is a key differentiator – essentially every person using Graph Search should get different results based on their personal network. And you are probably more likely to click on a link in Graph Search as it will have been recommended by someone in your immediate social circle.

Google has been trying to integrate social into search (one of the reasons for launching Google+), but Facebook has the advantage of scale and being able to potentially display content produced by its 1 billion users (in line with privacy settings).

From what we currently know, rankings in Graph Search are likely to revolve around two factors – affinity (how closely linked you are to the person doing the search) and weight – based on the type of information it is and how many Likes or comments it has.

How might businesses benefit?

Facebook is trying to create a whole new channel that businesses may need to address. But it is probably going to be important that they don’t limit themselves to simply creating a Facebook page. Based on what we know about Facebook Graph Search right now – they will probably need to take three other steps.

Firstly, make sure external content (such as pages on your website) are easy to share within Facebook, allowing people to broadcast your content to their social circle.

Secondly, use a whole range of content types. Typically multimedia content scores higher than text so make sure you’re creating videos or photos and making them prominent and easy to share on your site.

Thirdly, target the influencers. We understand that Graph Search results only come from people within your immediate Facebook circle. So you need to reach the hyper-connected individuals who have lots of contacts and are very active in liking and sharing content.