ImageSince Facebook announced its new Graph Search, there has been a lot of buzz about social search. Obviously Facebook believes the hundreds of billions (trillions?) of photos, updates, likes, shares, tags, metadata and more, are a treasure trove from which they can generate meaningful revenue. Why? Because people want to know or learn about the world from people they know and whose opinions they [usually] trust. And if social search fulfills this need, the billion+ Facebook users will turn more and more to the social network when searching for stores, restaurants, services and so on. And brands will want to be there, to have the ability to communicate on a personal, even individualized level, with their customers.

Facebook has invested plenty of time and money in Graph Search, the “third pillar” of their social network experience, because of the huge potential they see. Web search provides answers based on the wisdom of crowds interested in answering the same question, regardless of who are in those crowds. Social search provides answers based on what’s important to you, your friends, and your friends’ friends. It’s a much smaller universe, yes, but also a much more relevant universe. This is micro-targeting.

Imagine a clothing retailer. Let’s call it A+ Apparel. A+ Apparel keeps track of its customers’ purchases on its e-commerce site. It also tracks how customers behave immediately before they get to the site as well as while on the site: how they got to the site, which A+ Apparel pages they viewed, what other items they click on while there, and so on. With this information, A+ Apparel can send a personalized message to a customer–let’s call her Jane–suggesting other clothing items, based on the jeans Jane previously bought, as well as the blouse and jacket she clicked on but didn’t purchase. This level of personalization is certainly better than suggesting generic items or only items A+ Apparel wants to push at a given time. But how about if A+ Apparel also knew and could include information their customers share about themselves on Facebook? What if A+ Apparel also knew that Jane has liked a certain brand of shoes, that she enjoys yoga, that one of her main interests is being “green?” Imagine the personalization then!  

This is hyper-personalization: the ability to individualize marketing messages by connecting social signals with transaction history and online behavior. The depth of personalization based on social data that can be applied to customer communications is revolutionary. If you could realize the benefits of social search for your brand, right here, right now, would you do it?