Finding conversations on Facebook is an ordeal. Unlike Twitter, which comes complete with a search engine, Facebook profiles are closed off to anyone who isn’t a friend of that person. (Unless that person turns off that particular privacy filter, which isn’t often.)
So seeing as how Facebook is the Myspace for the moment, how do you find people who are talking about you or what you sell?
One way is using Facebook’s own Lexicon tool. This searches through Facebook wall posts looking for terms you select. However, it will only show you how that term is trending, and will only find something that already has high use. For instance, if I do a search for “beer,” you can see that this gets mentioned a lot – with an ungodly spike in use on St. Patrick’s Day. However, if I do a search for “Four Peaks Brewery,” a local micro brewery here in Tempe, there’s nothing. Even if it did turn up something, I wouldn’t be able to find out who is using this term, and how.
You can also use Facebook’s paid ad server to find out how many people use a specific word in their own profile. If you want to find people who list “pizza” somewhere in their profile, it will tell you how many do so to the person. It will also tell you their age group, gender, geographic location… it’s very neat for that.
However, it is also wildly unspecific. It doesn’t tell you what context people use the phrase in, so they could be using the phrase you are looking for in any number of ways that have nothing to do with what you’re looking for. Also, Facebook users aren’t prone to updating their profiles. Once they create an account and enter some information into those “about me” boxes, they usually stay untouched.
And after that, things dry up pretty quickly. Because Facebook walls off the information people post to their immediate friends, there is no easy way for you to penetrate this information.
My advice, frankly, is to monitor everything else. Remember, “brand monitoring” is simply a fancy way of saying, “what people are saying about you.” If the zeitgeist believes something about your business or industry, the frequency with which they say it on Twitter or blogs isn’t going to change dramatically on Facebook. If 60% of Tweets say pizza is delicious but 88% hate anchovies on it, you can bet Facebook posts aren’t going to be dramatically different.
If you are concerned with “what people are saying about you,” there is a wealth of free tools available to you, with more coming on line all the time. It isn’t something that takes a great deal of effort to look into, and can give you a good idea of what people do and don’t want.
Once you have this information, simply apply it to Facebook proactively through your Page, Group, text ads or applications.
What you are not likely to get any time soon is an easy road map to each user according to what they post. This is certainly annoying, given the number of people who use this site. However, it is only a matter of time before the next “big thing” comes along on the Internet. Perhaps the next Myspace will get you better information.
But if someone knows better, I am all ears.