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Facebook's Graph Search Ignites Race To Go Local

Nearby’s new mobile discovery functionality has important implications, but did not generate nearly as much buzz as last week’s Graph Search announcement. Graph Search elevates the possibilities for local-social marketing to a whole new level. 

In a recent interview, I proposed that investing in connections between your brand, your local customers and their friends has never made more sense than right now. In conjunction with local Pages, local publishing, highly shareable Facebook Offers and ZIP code-based ad targeting, newcomers Graph Search and Nearby round out a killer local marketing suite that only Facebook could deliver.

Local and regional marketing budgets have until recently been primarily allocated to search (mainly Google), freestanding inserts, cable TV, and newspapers. Today, they need to include Facebook as well. Here's how:

1. Local pages

As with any brand marketing on Facebook, it all begins with the Page. In the case of retail or multi-location businesses, it begins with a network of local Pages. Aligning these local Pages with one’s main brand Page is now relatively straightforward and a best practice for brands with multiple locations.

2. Local publishing

Less straightforward is the daunting prospect of curating content for your local Pages at scale. Many retail marketers are deterred by the logistics of this. It is a real challenge to operationalize great local content, customer service and promotions across an enterprise. This requires the infrastructure and policies to handle hyper-local content creation. Third-party tools can enable this kind of story-planning at scale.

3. Facebook check-ins

Remember when local businesses offered Facebook check-in deals and special incentives for their Foursquare Mayors? It's time to dust off these local-social loyalty efforts. They are now more relevant than ever, as reviews and check-ins by friends will play a major role in determining results within Graph Search and Nearby. Local businesses should encourage Facebook check-ins and on-site mobile uploads. And the next time one of your customers is taking a photo of their food with their smartphone, think twice about discouraging them: they’re only making your business more discoverable.

4. Facebook Offers

Facebook Offers has been widely applauded as a measurable business driver. However, few brands have leveraged the power of super-targeted offers distributed through a network of local Pages. Imagine the hotel chain with unsold rooms empowering local managers to promote same-day deals, exclusive to the fans and frequent guests of that particular property.

5. Facebook ads

On average, even the best-written posts and most compelling visuals will reach only 16% of your fans. To make your content go further, amplify using paid media. And not just any media buy will do: in order to drive engagement and new fans to your location-specific page, you need to advertise on a hyperlocal level. ZIP code targeting ensures that you are reaching exactly the right customers.

6. Graph Search + Nearby

Together, Nearby and Graph Search could combine to take social-local marketing to the next level. Imagine a mom out and about with her kids, looking for a quick bite to eat. Using Facebook Nearby and Graph Search, she could search for restaurants and make a decision based on friends’ dining activities, reviews and recommendations. Or imagine planning a trip to a new city and Graph Searching restaurant, entertainment and hotel recommendations based on where your friends have checked in on Nearby.

To make sure your business appears in these types of searches, focus on driving new Likes, check-ins and reviews. Being an active local publisher and cultivating relationships with fans will optimize your Graph Search ranking and drive visits.

In conclusion, if you haven’t gotten your local-social presence in order yet, today's the day. “Likes,” check-ins and other social proof have never before been so closely tied to sales -- and that link will only become stronger as Nearby and Graph Search are rolled out to the entire Facebook ecosystem.

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