This week's big announcement from Facebook finally put to rest the rumors and speculation about how they were going to try to tackle the realm of online search. With all the user data they have been collecting for years, it was not a question of "if", but "when".
And it's a doozy.
If you haven't already read about how it works, here it is in a nutshell: You can now mine the data from your own friends on the network to quickly identify if someone has a common interest or information that is valuable to you. So if you are visiting New York and want to find out the best Italian restaurant as recommended by your friends that live there, you'd enter a simple search query "What are my NYC friends' favorite Italian restaurants?" The new algorithm scans their data and returns the relevant information. You can read more about it here and even see a personalized demo.
So What Does this Mean for Franchise Restaurants?
It's simple -- local businesses and franchisees will now have a new way to benefit from word-of-mouth marketing, assuming they have their own Facebook page that engages with their community. If so, they will be displayed as a return when someone submits a query about a topic or place that one of their friends has liked...potentially leading to new business.
There has been a lot of talk about the best way for franchises to utilize social media, especially Facebook, and one of the stumbling blocks has been the reluctance to implement individual pages for each location. At the 2012 IFA Convention, a Facebook representative even announced the imminent rollout of Parent-Child pages to address this need -- but they have not delivered and the whole matter seems to have been forgotten.
But now, with this new feature, those local businesses that continue to resist creating local Facebook pages will be left behind in Graph Search.
Now of course, no one knows for sure how popular this functionality will be with users, but word-of-mouth marketing is more and more important, and I know I'd rather trust the opinions of my friends versus a bunch of reviews from strangers on Yelp, that could always be faked. I know once this is implemented, I'll be searching for all my friend's favorite taco joints and will be putting them on my bucket list. Who knows, maybe I'll even blog about the experience.
So franchise restaurants, if you haven't embraced localized Facebook pages yet, you might just miss out on "the next big thing".