Facebook and Open Graph Search Elevate Local Pages

By Mar 13, 2013

Most CMOs of major brands have at least acknowledged the potential of an effective social media presence. Still, many continue to overlook the value of getting local on Facebook. Brands with hundreds or thousands of physical locations cast aside a major advantage in social media marketing when they dismiss this opportunity.

Let’s not overcomplicate the issue. The main thing for CMOs to understand about the value of a national brand page on Facebook versus that of a local page run by one of their stores or franchises is that local pages have the potential to outperform national pages in nearly every facet, especially with the launch of Facebook Open Graph.

Will the local pages amass the same volume of followers, comments and interactions? No, not necessarily, but CMOs of multichannel brands with many physical locations shouldn’t concern themselves with these figures. Will it require some work to identify, train and empower the right local individuals? Yes, but technologies exist that can help make this more manageable. Is a comprehensive local Facebook strategy the right approach for every brand? Not necessarily, but the exceptions are few and far between.

CMOs should set aside any remaining desire to control every aspect of chatter about their brand and realize that customers almost always prefer to interact with a company’s local representative rather than someone from corporate. After clearing these hurdles, they can explore the opportunity and solicit input from their teams. Consider posing these two questions as a starting point.

1.    How many interactions per fan does our national Facebook page generate, and could we do significantly better with a fleet of local store pages?

Brands all too often consider progress in big aggregate numbers: numbers of posts, numbers of fans, etc. Following that logic, no brand would ever want to go local by building out a presence beyond a national page that caters to all consumers. For a more realistic assessment of how your page performs, consider boiling these numbers down to the individual fan level: posts/fan, interactions/fan, etc. This puts the effort in a whole new and more accurate light. Any CMOs still not convinced should pick five stores or locations to enroll in a test/pilot program. After three or six months, run these same numbers for the local pages and see how things compare.

2.    How do Facebook’s Graph Search and EdgeRank algorithm affect our brand’s Facebook visibility?

While traditional search engines return relevant content from the entire web, Facebook’s Graph Search returns highly personalized content from the searcher’s own personal network (social graph). In doing so, Facebook seeks out search results among all things shared publicly with the person conducting the search, including people, photos, video pages, places and more. EdgeRank, Facebook’s proprietary algorithm, plays a role in this process by assessing the relevance of all posts to determine what does and does not make it into a Facebook user’s news feed or Graph Search results.

Engagement plays a big role in making this determination, and people tend to connect and engage with local content a lot more than content created for everyone around the nation or globe. Local store pages have considerable advantages when it comes to creating relevant, engaging localized content; so marketers should consider them the brand’s best chance at gaining Facebook mindshare in the new Graph Search era.

Jon Schepke (jschepke@simpartners.com) is president and founder of SIM Partners.

  • davidpierpont

    While I understand the sentiment and perceived opportunity on this issue, in practice the ROI for most major brands that do not have significant differentiation in their product offering from store-to-store and region-to-region, these assumptions are not correct at all.

    Walmart is the perfect example. They have tons of resources, bought their own social company and did all that was described in this article. Impact on consumers? They don’t care. Cost to keep this up compared to engagement, epic failure. I challenge you to like several Walmart location, watch the content, watch the engagement, watch the fan growth. Now go to Walmart’s national page and tell me where the action is and where if it were you as a consumer which page you would follow. Folks this is not feasible for most CMO’s.

    Now if you are the CMO of say Six Flags, there is one huge location per market where people spend significant amounts of time, then you have an argument to have a page per location. If you are a franchise operator of a local fast-food chain, there is very little in return you will get for efforts. Again, go and start finding local pages and look at what’s going on. Do not go to the local pizza shop that everyone loves and has 5 locations, those do not count, you are not them, they are unique and consumers engage with them differently…and even then they should have one page.

    Myth. I have had many vendors come to me with amazing stats of 600% increase in fan engagement at a local page compared to a national page. Sure if you had zero fans and then you had 6, or people checked into a location on Facebook and you consider that engagement, then sure those numbers are real. Stop! No they are not! The person checking in doesn’t care about the next post your local page is going to put up about the local parade that is happening on Saturday. They checked-in for selfish reasons to let their friends know where they are, that definitely has value, but not enough to manage a monthly communications calendar and all that goes with it. I always recommend to my clients, claim the local Facebook page, update it with the right store hours, address, etc. and treat it as a yellow pages listing by turning off the timeline wall. People can still check-in and they can leave reviews, both need to be monitored and managed for reputation, but seriously no once outside of your employees and owners care about the cute photo of the kid standing next to the food or store sign. That same photo on a national page with millions of fans…yes that will get some attention. I also suggest you work with your national operator to do geo-targted posts leveraging their email list and millions of fans to post local content, deals, contest, that SxSW event in Austin if that is where your franchise is located. Use those big numbers to your advantage.

    Last thing, if you have the one franchise operator who LOVES social, let them have at it, but remember as a CMO you have to cover the 90+% of stores and the truth is, they are not good at this and will stop doing it, be lame at it or potentially create a huge PR disaster later.

    Sorry just being a realist who has tackled this issue for large clients many times.

  • JasonE22

    Very interesting! Nice article!