By Jonny Rosemont, head of social media at search, conversion & social media agency, DBD Media (@dbdsearch)
This month Facebook announced the launch of Graph Search, a new product that, despite its prosaic name, is likely to change the way we search for information online.
The news has been deemed to be so noteworthy that it even made the front page of some national newspapers.
Facebook Graph Search is the social network’s highly significant foray into the search space; a take on Google but with an interesting twist.
It allows users to search for Facebook content across people, places, photos and interests using structured queries.
How does this manifest itself? Facebook users can search along the lines of ‘friends who have stayed in Sydney’, or ‘photos taken by friends in France’ or ‘restaurants my friends like in New York’.
The platform can even enable users to make new connections or friends based on their travel interests, for example – ‘friends of friends who live or have been to Rio de Janeiro’.
Graph Search is likely to have a significant impact on travel marketing.
The travel industry is becoming increasingly dominated by peer-to-peer recommendations and this new Facebook product will accelerate the trend.
Facebook users will be using Graph Search to discover travel recommendations based on their friends’ Facebook activity: where to go, what to do, where to stay, where to eat and drink, and so on.
With search results based on the power of peer group approval, Graph Search could be seen as marrying the supremacy of Google with the might of TripAdvisor.
However, rather than competing against TripAdvisor and other such services like Yelp, these platforms are able to integrate with Graph Search through Facebook's Open Graph.
This means that Graph Search has implications that stretch way beyond the confines of Facebook.
The social network has also partnered with Microsoft’s Bing search engine to deliver search results beyond Facebook content itself.
Graph Search results are based on the information that people volunteer on Facebook, the content they share and their connections.
Crucially for marketers, results also include information created and shared by ‘liked’ business pages. This means that getting ‘liked’ by real people or customers is more important than ever.
Travel is a very evocative experience so Facebook users should be encouraged to ‘like’ your page by engaging them with fresh and relevant visual content like brochure-quality photos and tour videos.
The quality of the content should reflect the quality of the experience.
Paid advertising is, of course, an important and proven way to increase a company’s visibility on Facebook.
Although Facebook hasn’t yet revealed how advertising will appear within Graph Search, we know that advertising increases page ‘likes’ as well as EdgeRank scores, so it will inevitably have a positive knock-on effect on Graph Search awareness.
Travel companies involved in interest-based and destination-specific travel will perhaps have the most to gain from Graph Search.
Users will be able to search by combining destinations with personal preferences – for example ‘photography and Beijing’ or ‘art and Rome’.
In future, effective Facebook marketing will be about ensuring that businesses accurately list for these types of search results.
Other areas that will benefit from the arrival of Graph Search are local and mobile. For years, people have talked about the powerful combination of social media and mobile with respect to local business marketing.
Foursquare, Yelp, Google and Facebook have all tried to own mobile-based location marketing, but their efforts have not yet resulted in mass user adoption.
Graph Search could change this situation. When customers travel abroad, they can use Graph Search’s potent mix of easily finding local businesses on the go, combined with recommendations from friends.
Graph search is likely to change the way people share their travel experiences and this presents many positive opportunities for travel marketers.
In case these changes feel daunting, we’ve distilled the excitement into five simple take-outs:
• Get Set: Make sure your Facebook page is correctly set-up and reflects your company’s wider SEO strategy
• Get Liked: Focus on gaining page ‘likes’ from real customers
• Get Relevant: Provide timely and relevant visual content to engage your fans
• Get Local: Locations need to be set-up on Facebook pages to take advantage of any local and mobile promotional opportunities
• Get Advertising: Get cracking as soon as Facebook announces how to advertise within Graph Search