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As with most Facebook updates these days, there is a big announcement, a lot of hype, and then a tedious waiting game as the new feature slowly gets rolled out to a handful of people at a time.
That being said, if you run a hotel, you should be paying attention to Facebook Graph Search, whether you have access to it or not. All those Likes you’ve been accumulating for the past months and years, all that encouragement of people to check in to your property, all that monitoring of photos taken in your hotel: it can finally serve a purpose that will help your visibility and can even lead to bookings.
What is Facebook Graph Search?
In the simplest terms, the Facebook Graph is a database of everything anyone has done on Facebook – what they liked, where they’ve been, who they’ve connected with, etc. Graph Search allows you to tap into that database, and find information that is uniquely relevant to you and your friends. This means the same search will provide different results for every user.
How do I use Facebook Graph Search?
As of now (2/7/13) Graph Search is in beta testing, and is open only to English (US) audiences. You can join the waiting list by clicking the button at the bottom of this page.
Once you are invited to join, you can type search queries in everyday language to find things relevant to you: people, places and things.
How does Facebook Graph Search work?
Graph Search results are driven by what users do on Facebook: liking, commenting, tagging, sharing, etc. This is a fairly vague concept, but seeing how it actually works starts to create some very big implications for business – particularly location-based businesses like hotels and restaurants.
Let’s say I’m thinking of traveling, and I want to see what hotels my friends are recommending on Facebook – this is determined by which hotels they’ve liked and interacted with. The simple query “Hotels my friends like” yields over 100 results for me, showing key information about the hotels, linking to the hotel Facebook page, allowing me to like the pages, view photos and videos, and more.
This information is interesting, but there is too much for it to be highly relevant to me as a user. So next I refine my search. If I’m thinking of traveling, then it’s important to me to know where my friends have been, and if they like where they’ve stayed. So I edit my query to “Hotels my friends like and my friends have been to.”
Good information, but still too many results. Maybe at this point I know I want to travel to New York, so I type in “Hotels in New York my friends have been to.”
Maybe a particular hotel, the Grand Hyatt New York for example, grabs my attention and I want to get an inside look at it. What about the location, property, amenities, etc stand out? What do people want to remember and share about their stay? A quick search for “Photos of Grand Hyatt New York” will give me that insider’s perspective.
But if I’m really going to spend my hard-earned cash on a hotel, I would want to make sure it’s the kind of place that people who share my interests like to visit. I get along well with my friends in San Francisco, so when they travel to New York, which hotels have they been to? Try searching for “Hotels in New York my friends who live in San Francisco, California have been to.”
All of this searching for my next vacation in New York made my head hurt! What I really need now is to get away for the weekend and maybe go skiing in Tahoe. I know that one of my friends is an avid skier and goes to Tahoe a lot. I wonder which hotels and resorts he has been to. I don’t want to mess around – I just want to know where he has been so I can book it and enjoy my getaway. A simple search of “Hotels in Tahoe City, California [my friend] has been to” gives me my answer.
What are the business implications of Facebook Graph Search?
Google and the other search engines are working tirelessly to make search results are better tailored to the individual user. However, Facebook has the complete upper hand here: for years we have all been telling Facebook what we like, what we do, where we go, and more.
As a user, I can start to explore the world around me based on positive experiences from other people that I already have a connection with.
As a business, I now have an opportunity to reach targeted consumers who are looking for passive recommendations of their friends. Getting people to like my hotel, check in to my hotel, and take photos or videos at my hotel suddenly means I don’t just have a connection to that one person, but I can now reach an entirely new network of friends.
What should hoteliers be doing to take advantage of Facebook Graph Search?
You don’t have to be using Graph Search to get in front of people who do. Following a few simple tips on an ongoing basis can help put you in front of as many eyes as possible.
1- Make sure your page is categorized as a Hotel. Add the other important categories like Restaurant, Spa, Bar, etc. This will ensure that you are eligible to show up in search results when people are looking for you.
2- Optimize your profile image and the information section of your page. Businesses can live or die by first impressions: give people a reason to linger.
3- Increase your likes. If you are a hotel in New York and none of my friends like your page, then you won’t show in my results when I’m searching. The more likes you have, the greater your visibility in all searches.
4- Encourage check-ins. Creating a check-in special will go a long way in getting people to make that connection. Something small and inexpensive, like free WiFi or something complimentary from the mini-bar can be the difference between you showing in the search results instead of your competitors.
5- Target influencers: give people with a lot of friends a reason to connect with you on Facebook. Run some paid ads on Facebook targeting specific niche audiences; run a contest or giveaway with a prize that appeals to your core consumers; research who talks about you in other channels, and reach out to them to connect on Facebook.
Graph Search is still in the early stages, and will likely evolve over the upcoming months. As people use it, the algorithms will improve and the results become even more relevant to individual users. Adjusting your Facebook marketing strategy now to make sure you stay relevant with this latest update can help ensure that you are getting the best ROI from your social media efforts.