I’ve been doing inbound marketing evalutations for three years now. I have a few clients who ask me to reassess them annually and compare their scores to their competitors. In many of these cases, the scores have been falling even as these companies implement more and more inbound marketing tactics.

What gives? Shouldn’t their scores be going up?

You would think so. But the reason is that the goal posts keep moving and they’re moving faster than businesses are. As a result, they’re falling further behind instead of catching up. This is really bad news, considering that the overwhelming majority of businesses suck at social media already.

The Performance Gap

Every aspect of inbound marketing is changing rapidly. New channels and technologies are causing content marketing to evolve. Blogs, eBooks, videos, presentations, webcasts, infographics, microblogs, etc. Google makes over 8,000 algorithm changes per year, and a few of those are major updates like Penguin and Panda.

But no aspect of inbound marketing is changing faster than social media marketing. And it’s changing faster than businesses are, creating a growing social media marketing gap.

 Social Media Marketing Performance GapYesterday, we saw yet another example of why this is happening.

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph SearchDespite speculation that Facebook’s big announcement yesterday was going to be a phone, it turns out that they unveiled a new search engine they’re calling Graph Search. But it’s not simply a new search engine. It’s a new search paradigm. We’ve known for a while that something like this would come along, so it isn’t a major shock. It’s here and it’s just one more thing that will keep marketing VPs awake at night.

It will work like this: You can search for things like “Boston restaurants my married friends with children like.” You can search for people, photos, places and interests. The results will be based on many factors, no doubt, but likes and shares will certainly be strong signals.

As Elise Ackerman said in a Forbes article titled Why Facebook’s Graph Search Is a Very Big Deal, “In the not too distant future, sales people will be able to search for doctors who are interested in a new diabetic drug, small businesses who are interested in sales enablement software, or nonprofits who would like a new phone system, in the same way that they search for restaurants on Facebook.”

While Graph Search won’t challenge Google for dominance any time soon, sites like Yelp and Foursquare should certainly be worried. Small, local businesses are among the worst prepared for these sorts of developments. They tend to be the furthest behind. The good news is that it creates a huge opportunity for the ones that “get it” and close the social media marketing gap.