Facebook Graph, Barely Beta for Business Use

BY Jason Bland



Shortly after Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook Graph from the company's Menlo Park headquarters, I quickly applied for a beta test of the new feature.

Having been hailed as a potential Google Killer and promising to change the way we think of search, I was anxious to see what Graph could do and how to position our law firms to take advantage of this earth-shattering creation.

A few weeks went by before I was approved. Then one afternoon, I logged in and saw a notice informing me that Facebook Graph had been added to my account.

Before going any further, I will share a little information about myself so that you know what Facebook knows. I live in Marin County, California, which is just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. My profile also tells Facebook that I work for the parent company of this publication at our San Francisco office. They also know that this company has offices in both San Francisco, CA and Tampa, FL.

My friends are scattered across the country, but the majority of my connections on Facebook are in Florida. I have administrative access to an innumerable amount of Facebook pages belonging to the law firms with whom we work. We have a law firm in pretty much every major metro area in the United States.

Of course, Facebook also knows some details about me regarding favorite restaurants, destinations, political opinions and other details that I won't bore you with. But it's important to know what Facebook knows before showing the results that Facebook Graph yielded, so that you understand how much of my data they ignored when generating search results.

I decided to throw Graph an easy pitch. So I typed “personal injury lawyer” in my Graph bar. I did this while using my desktop in our San Francisco office (in case they were looking at my IP to determine where I am).

Facebook Graph recommended the following results for “personal injury lawyer:”

1 – A personal injury lawyer in Chicago we do not work with. This is an acceptable result, as I have "liked" content from our Chicago law firms, one of which is a personal injury firm.

2 – A personal injury lawyer in Ontario. This is where they lose me.

3 – A personal injury lawyer in Springfield, Missouri. This is three hours from the closest law firm I have "liked" or manage within my Facebook page.

4 – Another law firm in Ontario.

5 – Personal injury lawyer – web search.

Having not displayed one personal injury law firm anywhere near San Francisco, I decided to click on the web search.

Facebook's Web Search is Microsoft Bing rebranded as Facebook “powered by Bing.” They showed me results in San Francisco, which I could have accessed by going directly to Bing or Google.

I modified my search to tell Facebook where I was. Searching for “San Francisco personal injury lawyer” yielded three Facebook spammers. These are firms that simply add keywords into their business name. To protect those attorneys' dignity, I will display the real listings that appear with “Spammer” in place of their actual name.

San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney (Lawyer) Spammer & Spammer

Personal Injury Attorney Spam Spammer

Spammer & Associates – Personal Injury Lawyer

In its present condition, if lawyers want to have their Facebook pages prominently appearing in Facebook Graph, they will need to stuff keywords into their law firm name and contribute to Facebook spam.

Thinking outside of legal marketing, I decided to see if Facebook Graph could help me play a new sport or meet like-minded people.

I have been considering taking up fencing, so I searched for “fencing in San Francisco.” Facebook Graph's first recommendation was “Fences who live in San Francisco, California.” Close enough.

While I didn't get to meet Charles Fences or anybody else in the Fences family, to Facebook Graph's credit, they did display a long list of people in San Francisco that list fencing (the sport) as a hobby or “like.”

I think Facebook Graph is something we will be writing more about. I understand beta releases are done to get feedback from users and to perfect a product before exposing it to mainstream use. Facebook Graph is going to affect the way law firms are marketed online in the near future, but right now Facebook Graph beta has a lot of growing up to do.

Jason Bland

Jason Bland is a Co-Founder of Custom Legal Marketing and a regular contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine. He focuses on strategies for law firms in highly competitive markets. He's a contributor on Forbes.com, is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, Young Entrepreneurs Council, and has been quoted in Inc. Magazine, Business Journals, Above the Law, and many other publications.


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