Facebook as a Business Research Tool
Nowadays, you can – and should – be using Facebook for business-related research. Not only can you research your audience and your competitors, but you can also monitor your own business interaction, perception and feedback by using Facebook activity.
You can find posts and photos you or your business are tagged in, search for local competitors or audiences, find posts or Pages containing specific keywords – and now Facebook is working hard to refine its new Hashtag functionality so that it aligns more with Twitter functionality.
Let’s start by seeing what you can do with Facebook’s new Hashtag feature…
Step 1. Facebook Hashtags 101
Facebook hashtags started out as far from Twitter hashtags as you can get. They are evolving all the time, so right now your best bet is to put Twitter out of your mind and concentrate on what they can do for your business research.
- Using Hashtags
You can now create hashtags for Facebook and use as tools for tracking your own posts containing them.
You can also use them to track posts that others make, using:
Right now, according to Edgerank Checker, hashtags haven’t caught on firmly enough to positively affect your viral potential or Facebook rank.
But they can be extremely useful in quickly tracking down random Facebook conversations containing them, via your Facebook Graph Search function.
- Searching hashtags
You can search for Facebook hashtags that already exist – and for those that don’t exist.
For example, say you wanted to create the hashtag #facebookcontests: Type it into your Facebook search bar.
- If it already exists and is in use, it will appear like this:
- If the hashtag you type in doesn’t exist, you will see this (and possibly other search results):
How to Find Existing Facebook Hashtags:
Note that you will not see similar hashtag suggestions in search results: You will only see Pages and People suggested, if appropriate.
Right now, in spite of TechCrunch’s recent article there seems to be no searchable database of Facebook hashtags.
However, you can use existing Twitter hashtags for purposes of monitoring and research. You can find the best of these at Hashtags.org.
Step 2. Using Graph Search
Running Facebook searches is the other half of the “using-Facebook-hashtag” process. But you can search this social network for business research purposes without necessarily concentrating on hashtag-finding alone.
With graph search, you can:
- Search for friends by name (“or anything else”)
- A simple phrase (e.g. “Friends who live in Wyoming”)
- Any information contained in your friends’ Facebook accounts (e.g. Photos, businesses, places, movies, music)
- Any information contained in Public accounts or in your Friends’ Public categories
For example, if you want to search for “Coffee”, you will see results such as coffee shops, coffee brands, Pages about coffee (all Pages being Public) and similar results.
In short, anything you have ever posted to Facebook is now searchable. So before you start searching for friends, phrases or information, you’re going to want to quickly adjust your privacy settings to segregate anything that doesn’t fit with your business branding.
It will display who can:
- See your present, past and future posts
- See posts and photos you are tagged in
- Send you friend requests
- Send you Facebook messages
Your Profile – To control who sees your profile information, use your “About” tab. If you are still using a personal feed, click on your Name in your top, horizontal menu bar to the left of the padlock icon. You can then choose to edit your Profile and its privacy settings by performing one or both of the following functions:
- Click on your About tab, under your Cover Photo
- Click on the Activity Log tab that will appear within your Cover Photo. If you are exploring Graph Search for the first time, you will receive prompts.
Use your Activity Log to review posts with location or other tags; or review tagged Photos
To make sure the right people find only the most appropriate information about you or your business:
Assign one of the following three categories to each type of contact:
- Only Me – Information you want to use for personal and/or business research or reference
- Friends – Information you want personal friends and family to see. (That would also include any networking peer or friend you’ve “Friended” on Facebook.)
- Public – Ideally, anyone at all, including your target audience, business peers, networking contacts, clients or customers.
A good rule of thumb is to never post anything that (a) clashes with your branding (b) you wouldn’t be comfortable with strangers or your grandmother seeing.
And here’s the best tip of all about Privacy settings: If you want a narrow, specific, target audience to see a particular type of post:
- Create a List containing that specific group of people (e.g. “Clients”)
- Use the Custom setting for posts you only want – for example – “clients” to see, specifying the particular list you have placed them within:
Finally, remember that Facebook Pages are always Public.
Part of business researching always involves controlling what others can research about you and your company – business researching being a two-way street! Do this intelligently, and it will have a positive effect on your monitoring.