With Facebook’s Graph Search already available for UK audiences in the form of Graph Search Beta, I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before we’re all sat here wondering how we lived without it.

And if you run a local business it’s time to figure out how much additional business or general PR exposure it can bring you. Local businesses have previously got by with Google Places listings, but Graph Search has opened the door for far more local visibility.

For an example of how this all works, first imagine that, like us, you are based in Colchester. And then imagine that, again like us, you enjoy a weekly Friday pub lunch – but you have no idea where to go. You are, however, friends with me on Facebook – so you type ‘Katie Hall pubs’ into Graph Search and receive a screen similar to the image below. You’ll see the result ‘Pubs Katie Hall has been to’ and if I’ve correctly tagged myself and the rest of the Browser team at our regular Friday haunt then you’ll know where serves up the best chicken goujons in town.

You can also do a more generalised search, like Asian restaurants (see example below). You’ll be asked if you want to view ‘Asian restaurants nearby liked by people’ and ‘Asian restaurants nearby from where I am’. So if a businesses appears on Facebook and is listed as being near your location, there’s a possibility you might drop in. But if you select ‘liked by people’, you’ll find a list of Asian restaurants that have been endorsed by the good people of Facebook, the good people whose opinion you trust and value… your Facebook ‘friends’.

Suddenly culling your friends list probably seems more appealing, because no one wants to end up eating at a terrible restaurant that was a check-in of their best friends ex-boyfriends mum… or whatever. Of course, if you have questionable connections with people that have great taste, a cull may not be needed.

But back to local businesses, who now must be clapping their hands with glee at the thought of all these ‘recommended by a friend’ business leads coming their way. And right they are too, because it turns out that optimising for Graph Search is pretty straight forward.

First, choose the right category to list your business as. Secondly, make sure your business address and the entirety of your facebook business profile are filled out fully and correctly, mentioning a few important keywords. The next two steps are possibly the most important – get more likes and check ins.

Running promotions, adding social buttons to your site and Facebook advertising will get your likes up, and check ins can be encouraged by more advertising and more incentives – even offline incentives are good news, such as one I saw a while ago run by Domino’s Pizza who were offering 20% off your next order if you posted a picture of yourself in their branch and tagged yourself there.

Lastly, get involved in videos and pictures and tag away – Graph Search users can search videos and photos, and tagging your business in these can improve your Graph Search rankings. There are certainly more things you can do to optimise for Graph Search, but these first few steps are simple and should be pretty effective.

So Graph Search. What a brilliant thing. Google may produce approximately 103,000 results in 0.32 seconds for ‘music venue Colchester’, but if I want to head out to a gig I’m far more likely to trust where one of my friends has previously been than to whatever nearest location result Google maps thoughtlessly spits out at me.

And considering my issues with Facebook privacy and people that check in literally EVERYWHERE this is really saying something. Let the check-in’s commence!