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large_3102296497Facebook announced its new graph search today. And everything in local marketing is going to change, again.

Currently, 90 percent of small businesses are on Facebook, but only a third of these actually post to the site more than a couple times a week, and another third want to spend even less time on social media. That may need to change with Facebook’s new graph search.

At least, if you want your local business to grow.

The Complete Small Business Marketing Guide used to have about one page: Advertise in Yellow Pages. For the past couple of years, though, it has included Facebook, blogging, Google-friendliness, Twitter, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, not mention mobile ads and SMS marketing campaigns.

But with graph search, all of this could change. Or become much less effective.

Facebook’s new graph search is going to allow Facebook’s billion-plus members to easily and quickly find the best local businesses — according to their friends, and other locals. Restaurants, dentists, doctors, or carpenters: Facebook will highlight the services and businesses that your friends like, use, comment on, and respond to. Facebook has a billion-plus members who have uploaded 240 billion photos and created over a trillion connections between themselves — and with businesses.

“It’s nice to see … any tool that makes it easier for the local business to be found is good for local businesses,” says Mike Lyman, a local marketing expert. “It’s another reason for a local business to have a Facebook page — some have been shying away because of the ROI, the investment in time.”

Graph search is a big deal — and a big shift for local search.

Local businesses have already jumped on the social bandwagon, but now it’s not just about presence. And it’s not just about doing it because everyone else is doing it. Now, it’s about maximizing social visibility — social media optimization — just as smart businesses have worked for years on search engine optimization.

No likes? It’ll be hard to appear in social search. And while fake likes from users in Kazakstan might make you look good on the outside, they won’t translate to business because they won’t be truly local. Lots of likes but no interactions? Again, it’ll be hard to gain visibility when local people search for the best businesses. Facebook will be looking at a wide variety of social signals when determining what to show users in response to their queries.

What’ll work?

“Being active, having good content, and participating regularly are all key,” Lyman says. “It’s now beyond the like … you need to engage your customers somehow and get them to participate. Increasing your engagement will increase your visibility, so interactivity is the key.”

In other words, local businesses that have been dedicated to growing a loyal, responsive fanbase by both doing great work and being active in engaging local people via Facebook are best positioned to win at the new social media optimization.

photo credit: Porter Novelli Global via photopin cc

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