From Dreaming to Booking: How Facebook Graph Search Plays a Role for Hotels.
By Margaret Mastrogiacomo
Tuesday, 26th March 2013
With 87% of online users reporting that Social Media recommendations impact hotel choice, it is no secret that social media influences the travel planning process.

With the launch of Facebook Graph Search, a feature that helps users discover common interests with friends and discover places to visit, social media's impact on travel research and discovery will become even more significant.

Graph Search, which is still currently in Beta and will be rolled out to all Facebook users in coming months, allows users to search for people, places, and things, based on various Facebook connections such as location, interests, places friends have visited, and more.

What does this mean for hotel Facebook marketing? Facebook users will now be able to discover places their friends have visited and hotels where their friends have stayed with one simple Facebook search. This creates a unique opportunity for hoteliers hoping to reach new potential guests on this popular social network.

Suddenly, the online travel planning process has become more personalized. To leverage this opportunity, read on to explore how Graph Search plays a role in each phase and learn how to prepare your Facebook strategy for greater visibility in search results.

1. The Dreaming Phase: Where should I travel next? When online travel planners are looking for vacation inspiration, they can now turn to Facebook Graph Search to see places their friends have visited. This adds a more personalized element to researching possible vacation destinations. Users can search phrases like "Photos taken at places my friends have been to" and "Photos taken at hotels by my friends" to see more personalized search results from friends rather than conducting a more general Google search for potential travel destinations.

The Dreaming Phase:
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2. The Planning Phase: Where should I stay? Now, choosing a hotel can go beyond TripAdvisor with more personalized recommendations from friends. Once online travel planners have chosen a destination, they can search for friends who have been to that destination and conduct a more granular search to see hotels where friends have stayed. To research hotels where friends have stayed, users can conduct a Facebook Graph Search such as "Hotels in New York my friends have been to."

The Planning Phase:
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3. The Booking Phase: Am I making the right hotel choice? Many travelers believe that choosing the right hotel can make or break a vacation. That's why customer review websites such as TripAdvisor play a vital role in confirming hotel selection before making a booking. One of the main concerns for travelers who have never stayed at a particular hotel is that the property will not live up to their expectations. For instance, if a potential guest is curious to see what a hotel really looks like with photos from guests, they can conduct a Facebook Graph Search such as "Photos taken at Dream Downtown." After conducting this general search, users can then narrow the search to feature only photos taken by friends and reach out for a personal opinion on the hotel before making a booking.

The Booking Phase:
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4. The Experience Phase: What should I do? Graph Search can get even more detailed with the ability to search restaurants, museums, and tourist attractions friends have visited in the destination. For example, users can conduct searches such as "Restaurants my friends have been to in London," or "Places my friends have visited in London" to receive more personalized recommendations of "things to do."

The Experience Phase:
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5. The Sharing Phase: How can I make my friends jealous? Not only can Facebook Graph Search help users discover recommendations from friends on things to do, it also allows them to share their own experiences on Facebook to add additional content to the Facebook Graph. One guest's Experience and Sharing phase can potentially ignite and influence a future guest's Inspiration and Planning phase when they view friends' scenic and enticing travel photos in Facebook Graph Search results.

How can hotels prepare for this new Graph Search feature?
  • Make sure your Fan Page is optimized for Graph Search results. To ensure that your Fan Page is properly showing up in Facebook Graph Search results, make sure your Hotel Fan Page has the correct category (Hotel) and location details. If you haven't already, merge your Fan Page with your Facebook Places page, and ensure that your hotel has no duplicate pages across Facebook's platform. It's also important to make sure that your page name and About section are optimized with relevant keywords since this content is actually pulled from your Fan Page as SEO elements.
  • Create a Fan Page Vanity URL. Facebook allows Fan Pages to create a unique URL which is called a Username. Choose a Facebook Username that is highly relevant to your hotel name and location. This Username should also be easy for potential guests to remember as this will be the direct URL to your Fan Page.
  • Actively build your Facebook audience. Facebook Fan Pages with the most "likes" are prioritized in Facebook Graph Search results. Invest in effective Facebook advertising such as Sponsored Stories to help promote your Fan Page. Building your fan base is crucial to increasing your Graph Search rankings.
  • Engage your audience with meaningful content. Engagement on Facebook is more important than ever. Create high-quality, targeted content that is buzz-worthy and reflects your brand persona. To increase the visibility of Fan Page content in Graph Search results, encourage fans to like, share, comment, and check-in. These actions are crucial for friends of fans to discover your hotel in Graph Search results.
  • Optimize your Fan Page posts with relevant keywords and Hashtags. Facebook recently announced that posts and comments will be integrated into Facebook Graph Search results. It is also rumored that Facebook will be integrating Hashtags into Graph Search results to make post content around certain topics easier for users to discover. In light of these future updates, it's important to make sure that all Fan Page posts include keywords relevant to your hotel and the content of your post, such as "West Hollywood Hotel Spa" and "West Hollywood Hotel Rooftop Pool."
From dreaming to booking, Facebook Graph Search will play a crucial role in online travel planning and discovery. While the true impact of Facebook Graph Search still remains to be seen, there are now more ways than ever for potential guests to discover your hotel content on Facebook.

At the dawn of this new Facebook era of social discovery, it is important to optimize, engage, and put your best Fan Page forward.

About the Author and HeBS Digital:
Margaret Mastrogiacomo is Senior Manager, Interactive Media & Creative Strategy at HeBS Digital, the hospitality industry's leading full-service digital marketing, hotel website design + technology, and direct online channel strategy firm, based in New York City.
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