Facebook’s Graph Search and Prospect Research
Introducing Graph Search
Last week, Facebook unveiled their new Graph Search tool, which allows users to search for Facebook users by interests, likes, relationship status, and location, among other qualifiers. Examples of searches include “Friends who like yoga who live in Chicago”, “Pictures of friends taken before 1998”, or “Friends who like Make-A-Wish”. The results of these searches can reveal full names, addresses, employers, friends and family, and photographs. Creative searching can yield some very telling results, as evidenced by a popular Tumblr site’s investigation into search possibilities. Currently, graph search is still in beta, and you can join the waiting list here.
Specifics on Graph Search Data
Potential users of Graph Search need to remember the caveats. Facebook’s information can be incomplete, deceptive, and even fictitious (“ironic likes” for example). Then there are the obvious limitations – users need to like pages to generate searchable connections. But the breadth and depth of data Facebook offers can’t be found anywhere else. Leveraging the interlacing interests of individuals, businesses, and organizations into some very powerful insights is simply too valuable to ignore.
Using Graph Search for Prospect Research
So what does Graph Search mean for prospect researchers? It means effectively mining the 8+ years of data that Facebook has been collecting just got a whole lot easier. There are several ways that I see it helping immediately.
The ease of collecting data makes it easier to patch holes in current constituent datasets. With a little creativity, leveraging the new search options may make more imputation of variables possible, particularly by examining constituent relationships and interests. For example, age can be imputed by graduation year, which will become searchable.
There will be better opportunities for identifying new constituents based on searches. Possible search ideas include: friends of those who are already involved with the organization, people who live nearby, people whose interests coincide with your institution’s mission, or any combination of the above. Finding friends of users who like a page is a quick search, and aggregating this list to people who live nearby will become a piece of cake.
Your Institution’s Facebook Page
On the flip side, the interest and ability of others to find you through a Graph Search should not be overlooked. Information about fundraising organizations is about to become a whole lot more visible. The number of channels by which organizations can be searched will also greatly increase, which can mean more traffic for your page. Here are a few steps to take in preparation for the widespread release:
- Fill out the basic information section of your page, and include as many relevant keywords as needed. This includes selecting a category and sub-categories if you haven’t already.
- Make sure your address is up to date. Because users can search by address, you’ll want this information to be as accurate as possible.
- Got photos? Label them with descriptive text, tag the people in them, and add a location to them. Photos are fair game for searches, and the more information you can provide at a glance, the better.
- If you haven’t already, update your page’s URL to be customized, preferably containing the name of your organization. This will also improve your SEO on Google.
- Check your content. Gathering and retaining followers is more important than ever. Make sure to keep things relevant and interesting to keep people engaged.
- Once Graph Search becomes available to the whole Facebook community, try constructing searches that you would hope your page would appear in. If it doesn’t, look to those whose pages did appear and imitate what they did to list so well – the sincerest form of flattery!
For more information on Graph Search, visit https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.
Caitlin Garrett, Statistical Analyst at Rapid Insight
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