Facebook announced yesterday they were entering into the search game in a big way with their new product, Facebook Graph. It is a natural next step for Zuckerberg to offer a search feature given the dominance Google has in the marketplace in this key area and Facebook’s existing global database of users’ personal information that has not, up until now, been optimized for search.
Facebook Graph will differ from Google search however, in that, it will search data within Facebook that is linked to a person, a place, photo, or interest (likes). In other words, it is a social search based on social graphs within Facebook communities. Just notice in the Facebook launch video at the end of this post how often the destination is part of the story. This is huge for tourism operators, hospitality companies, tour companies, visitor centres, destination marketers and travellers who will be searching for friend-approved things to do, places to go, airlines to trust, hotels to book (or not), cities to explore, and countries to visit.
Building on the successful model of Trip Advisor, Facebook has a slight advantage getting into this area of the travel business: they have a billion users. They are an intrinsic part of a global culture. They begin and end a lot of people’s days and they are an undeniable sharing space of stories on travel. Link this to context and content plus search and it will provide tourism brands with an opportunity to have their content show up in searches of an audience outside their news feed which is likely a welcome relief after the restrictive algorithm changes made this past September which prompted many companies to have to purchase sponsored stories.
While an exciting opportunity, there is an ever present need for intelligent, strategic, content for Facebook branded pages and perhaps even more so now with the ability to reach a global market through Facebook Graph. If someone queries ‘kayaking in lakes, BC’ and there are three companies your friends have used but your company page hasn’t updated their feed in a week or put much effort into visual storytelling or look like it engages much with fans, who will they choose to help them with their travel planning? It isn’t enough anymore just to update your brand’s page. As with any social channel, you are in a community, not an advertisement. Branded pages need strategic planning, devoted monitoring, and content that is relevant and engaging to its fans.
While I would recommend also having a Google + page for your tourism business (for many excellent reasons, top among them is SEO), taking a strategic look at how you will optimize your page for Facebook search and be ready when it gets deployed in every country around the world is recommended. As I say to my clients everyday, just tell good stories. If you aren’t sure how to do that using social media, I can help you. See my Social Story Support page for more info or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the video from Facebook on their new product here.