This just in: Google’s Knowledge Graph now shows social profiles for brands. In other words, the card you see on the right hand side when you Google a brand (the one that shows your logo, information from Wikipedia and other “rich information”) will now show links to our social profiles.

google knowledge graph

If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is not a first for Google – they started adding these “social links” within the Knowledge Graph box in November, although that was only limited to famous personalities – singers, celebrities, politicians etc.

Google are now extending this to brands. So, if you Google a brand’s name, you’ll now see a link to their social accounts.

Doing a quick check on Twitter and Google+, it looks like marketers are generally happy about this move, which is Google’s way of embedding social media even further in their search results. If you’re thinking “where’s Google+ in all this?”, Google have reserved a special place for its “social network” right under the other social icons, pulling through the most recent posts from the brand’s Google+ Page. The only exception to this is if you have no content on your page. For instance, the Staples Google+ Page is pretty much dead, with only a dozen followers and no content. Due to that, when you search for Staples on Google, you’ll see the social icon for Google+ right next to the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter icons.

Just FYI, the Knowledge Graph supports links to the following social networks:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace

If you’re wondering, Google doesn’t display a link to your site from this Knowledge Graph, as it relies on your site being listed in the first page of the search results, right next to the Knowledge Graph (which only appears in the first page).

Me being me I had to do some thorough testing and see what this change looked like for brands out there, and it’s not looking good for a few brands.

Technical and Algorithm Issues

How does Google know which social accounts of yours to link to? Without getting too much into the technical details, Google relies on the structured data markup on your website. In a nutshell, the code on your website needs to explicitly say what your social accounts are. You can explicitly “declare” as many social profiles as you wish, including profiles on networks that won’t show in the Knowledge Graph (e.g. Vine, Pinterest, Snapchat). (More on the technical details later.)

Because not every brand has these links set up on their website, Google will look for the best possible alternative – and sometimes the alternative is plain wrong. (May I remind you of what happened to Greggs back in August, when Google’s algorithm chose an “alternative” logo for them? [link])

So far I’ve encountered four scenarios:

  1. Right brand, right account: I searched for a brand, I got that same brand in the Knowledge Graph box, and the right links to their social accounts. This is the ideal scenario.
  2. Right brand, wrong account: I searched for a brand, I got that same brand in the Knowledge Graph box, but it was pointing to their wrong social account. A lot of brands have separate social accounts dedicated to specific functions: a brand account where they post brand-related content, a separate account dedicated to customer care, a separate one for PR communications etc. (e.g. @Spotify vs. @SpotifyCares vs. @SpotifyPR ). If you don’t choose which profile you’d like people to see as your primary account, Google will choose for you. For example, search for TalkTalk and you’ll notice that the link to their Twitter account points to their X Factor Twitter account (@TalkTalkXFactor), instead of their main brand account (@TalkTalkUK).
  3. Wrong brand, wrong account: I searched for a brand, and got a completely wrong brand in the Knowledge Graph (hence wrong social links). Search for Fox, and you’ll notice that the link to their Twitter profile doesn’t point to their account (@FOXTV), but rather to the account of Julie Stewart-Binks (@JSB_FOX), a FOX Sports Reporter. It’s not just Twitter – it can happen to any other social network: just search for Lush and you’ll find that the link to Facebook points to a boyband called “Lush & Simon” (facebook.com/lushandsimon). Meanwhile, the official (not-yet-verified) Facebook Page for Lush (facebook.com/lushcosmetics) doesn’t get any love from Google’s Knowledge Graph.
  4. No brand, no account: I’ve Googled a few notable brands and got no social icons in return. Try Googling Facebook, and you’ll see links to its accounts on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and of course Facebook. Now try Googling Pinterest – you’ll find nothing. Sure, they have an account on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn – yet, none of these show up in the Knowledge Graph.

How do I fix it?

First things first, Google your brand name right now – what do you see? Check that all the information on your brand’s Knowledge Graph is correct and that all the links are pointing to the right destinations.

If you notice anything wrong (or anything other than scenario #1, as outlined above), or if you’re just getting started with this, you have three options:

  • do it yourself,
  • request a fix, or
  • contact Google.

If you want to fix this yourself and you need some pointers on how to change the markup on your site, you’ll find all the info you need on the official Google Help Page on the matter (link). The basic requirements for this to function are:

  • Publish markup on a page on your official website
  • Page(s) with markup must not be blocked to the Googlebot by robots.txt
  • Include a Person or Organization record in your markup with:
    • “url” = the url of your official website
    • “sameAs” = the urls of your official social media profile pages

The second option is reporting any errors yourself (incorrect links etc.). You can request any corrections from the feedback form in the bottom right of the Knowledge Graph. Once you click on it you can select the part that is incorrect and send in your feedback to request changes. (Quick tip: get more people to submit this, so that your request moves up the priority queue with Google’s engineers.)

The third option is contacting Google: depending on where you work and the relationship you have with Google’s Account Management, you can contact them to rectify any issues with what appears in the Knowledge Graph (so this includes the Wikipedia entry, the logo and any other associated info).

Don’t forget about analytics

Don’t just check if Google is pointing people to the correct accounts – check the impact of this change.

Start tracking if your fans and followers are increasing, how many impressions your profiles are getting, and how your engagement and conversions are being impacted as a consequence. Remember: this change may affect your accounts on the following platforms if they’ve been linked to on Google’s Knowledge Graph:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace

You can track the necessary stats on Facebook by downloading the Page Level Export; you can do the same on Twitter via your Analytics Dashboard; and on YouTube via their native analytics. Google+ offers some analytics for profile views, although they’re quite basic.

Or, simply, if you want to track the impact on all those accounts in one place (without having to log in and out and have several tabs open), I recommend Simply Measured as your go-to analytics super-tool to track if this new change by Google is having an impact on your reach and community growth in any way.