Facebook's recently announced Graph Search feature changes everything. Okay, not everything. Toast will still land butter-side-down, and shoe manufacturers will continue to be unable to manufacture anything that doesn't shred your heels upon first use. But it's going to have a massive effect on social media marketing and an even bigger one on social commerce.
For years now, brands have been engaging with people on their corporate Pages. Of course, no one joins Facebook for that, so direct traffic to facebook.com/acme_tractors has historically been pretty low. As a consequence, brands have had to force their way into users' newsfeeds and timelines. Sometimes by staging giveaways or running polls - anything to 'engage' and inspire sharing. Sometimes by posting photos of cute, fluffy rats wearing silly hats. Pics like that always get 'likes'.
But, in doing that, brands have dumbed themselves down. Acme Tractors aren't in the business of cooing over rats in hats. They're in the business of selling tractors (at least they would be had I not made them up). What they need is for people to engage with their brand on Facebook in the context of commerce, not cuteness.
Once Facebook's Graph Search expands to include all Open Graph elements (something CEO Mark Zuckerberg says is forthcoming), brands won't have to ditch their dignity to catch the eye of prospective customers. They'll just need to offer enticing deals, deals which reward users' participation and incentivise sharing. That way, when people search for deals which might interest them, perhaps deals their friends are taking part in (or, as we like to call them, Co-buys), up comes the brand and up go the sales. Essentially, brands won't just appear in search results, they'll be able to sell in them.
That's a game-changer.
And it's actually the most important thing you're yet to read about Facebook's announcement. You'd heard how it might affect Google. You've read about poor old Yelp. You've learned how Bing might actually profit. But, unless you work for one of those companies, none of that really mattered to you. This does. This matters a lot.