Facebook’s new Graph Search can create a more personal and influential encounter between hotels and travel shoppers.
By: Frank Zamora, Senior Paid Search Analyst
What is Graph Search?
Facebook launched Graph Search early this year, and while currently in beta testing, it will be available to everyone soon. The tool essentially allows users to utilize Facebook as a search engine, with the search results consisting exclusively of Facebook likes, photos, videos, personal information, etc. Facebook aims to compete for a chunk of the search market currently dominated by Google, but only time will tell if users view Graph Search as a legit source for information or just another fun way to get social media gossip. Regardless, this is big news for hotels, and will undoubtedly have some effect.
How does it work?
The Graph Search tool will show results that are unique to each searcher, based on their location and all the people and items connected to them. When it comes to hotels, travel shoppers can obtain personalized reviews, comments and photos – from people they trust – about hotels they’re interested in.
For instance, when a travel shopper searches for “Hotels my friends like in San Francisco,” any of his/her friends that have liked or checked in at a San Francisco hotel will display in the search results. In this case, the “like” or “check-in” basically serves as a positive and credible online review. That’s about as good as hoteliers can hope for, especially considering that 81% of U.S. consumers are influenced by friends’ social media posts (Market Force).
How can it benefit hotels?
Lee McCabe, Facebook’s head of travel, recently expressed that he believes Graph Search “will be a game-changer for travel.” With this tool, Facebook users will be able to explore the hotels their friends stay at, and things to do nearby. He believes the industry needs to take notice, stating, “Hotels should make sure they have and keep updating their Facebook pages, categorize them correctly, and encourage likes and check-ins. If you don’t have a page, you are not going to show up.”
Graph Search will provide hotels more online real-estate, and enable them to better promote themselves to travel shoppers. And perhaps most important of all, hotels will be found in a medium where consumers are comfortable and highly influenced by their peers. This can lead to immediate engagement and potentially direct bookings.
What action should hotels take?
In short, build your fan base and have a consistently active and optimized Facebook page. The busier the Facebook page, the better your search results will be. Here are some specific ways to optimize your page:
- Make sure your hotel’s name, description and location is accurate and updated.
- Tag your hotel on every photo you post.
- Include keywords about your hotel in posts and comments.
- Maintain regular interaction with your fans through frequent posts and updates.
- Encourage past, present and future guests via property level and email communication to participate on Facebook.
- Incorporate special offers, contests, information on local attractions, etc. to increase interaction and shares amongst fans.
- Include a social media expert on your staff or partner with a respected hotel Internet marketing company to leave zero doubt about your presence.
The Bottom Line
Facebook may not be a high ROI booking channel in certain cases, but with one billion users and millions of conversations, it’s a major influencer of travel shoppers’ bookings. It’s also a terrific branding mechanism and way for your hotel to own more search space. Consumers are literally addicted to social media across all devices, which has evolved into them basing purchase decisions on user generated content. Graph Search is an advancement that makes Facebook that much more important to travel shoppers, and that much more productive for properties. It should without a doubt be a core component of your integrated marketing plan.