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Facebook - Coming to a Hotel Website Near You.
By Andy Hayes ~ Exclusive for 4Hoteliers.com
Tuesday, 27th April 2010
 
Facebook has just recently announced a new series of social plugins that you can easily place onto your own hotel website, giving you enhanced Facebook integration without the hassle of dealing with complicated coding. 

http://developers.facebook.com/plugins

Here's a few of the new options are available:

Recommendation Buttons

You knew that Facebook changed the "Become a Fan" to a "Like" button instead, right?  So now, if you approve of something while you are in Facebook, you can always click Like. 

The new feature is that you can embed a Like button on each of your website pages – blog posts, for example.  

Tripadvisor is implementing the Like button click to read so I encourage you to check this out if you have content that is often shared via social networks.

Recommendations Widget: 

Similar to how you could before have a ‘become a fan' widget, now you can have a ‘recommendations' widget – it highlights the most popular content on your site.  This is calculated by what pages have been "Like"-ed and "Share"-ed the most.

Comments Box: 

You can actually replace your existing blog post comments section with a Facebook-powered comments section.  This of course posts the comment to the person's profile as well as displays it on your site.

If you already have the "Become a Fan" widget installed, this has already automatically changed to a "Like Box."  (Don't worry – it doesn't say that on your site, and it doesn't look much different except the button has changed.)

Caveats:

These widgets and buttons aren't for everybody.  Some caveats:
  • Do not Cut and Paste. I do think Facebook has made these pretty easy to implement, but depending on your content management system, it isn't a simple cut and paste.  Be sure to check with your website developer if you need the help.
  • Are your customers on Facebook?  If the majority of your customers aren't Facebook customers, then these widgets will not be very useful for them and it will probably discourage commenting (since these widgets of course want you to join Facebook to join in on all the fun).  If you don't know your customers' views on Facebooks, have you asked?
  • Less is More.   While these widgets are fun, this is not the excuse you were looking for to pepper your site with more widgets.  For example, do not put a like button on your page that lists prices.  Why?  You're trying to close a sale, not send them off running to Facebook, right?
And a Word on Data Privacy

While we're talking about all this new fun stuff, I feel compelled to mention the recent decision by Facebook to share your data with other websites.  It's called "instant personalisation" and in typical Facebook style, this isn't an opt-in service but an opt-out. 

As a recent post on Mashable points out http://mashable.com/2010/04/25/disable-facebook-instant-personalization , it's simple to disable this option but it's a shame we have to in the first place. 

Now is probably a good time to go and review ALL of your privacy settings on Facebook to ensure you're happy with what is and isn't being shared with not only your friends, but the world.

Andy Hayes is the Managing Partner of Travel Online Partners (TOP), a company focused on helping for small businesses in travel and tourism with online technology. 

To find out more about their do-it-yourself guides, coaching and consulting, visit the website www.travelonlinepartners.com
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