Having obtained early access to the beta of Facebook Graph search (currently only available to US English users), I immediately (of course) dived right in to see if I could replicate the funniest Facebook Graph searches that have been making their rounds on the web. While the feature certainly didn’t disappoint, it was also time to test out the more serious aspects of Graph Search for hotels, restaurants and all things local… the power of lasting social recommendations.
Just as Google has been trying hard to put a ‘social’ twist to all things search, Facebook has now put a ‘search’ twist to the social experience. From the standpoint of a local business like a hotel or restaurant, the most irritating thing about social platforms is that they do not offer referrals with any longevity… i.e. it’s not very easy to dig up the best Italian restaurants your friends have been to (or like) in the past few months, without racking your brains and doing some serious timeline stalking (doubt if anyone has the time or patience either). Most social platforms have been trying hard to fix this problem…FourSquare’s interface changes are a great example, with a renewed focus on local discovery and highlighting businesses and specials near you.
Facebook’s graph search aims to transform the social network into a discovery and local recommendation engine. With the use of simple phrases, it is very easy to discover places, people, photos, videos and things on the network. Just as Google uses links to webpages and websites as votes of confidence and authority, so too does Facebook use likes, check-ins, comments and shares as measures of endorsement. Here are a few quick searches I ran:
Hotels liked by my friends:
Photos by my friends taken at hotels my friends visited (a great way to discover new destinations and vacation ideas?)
Asian Restaurants nearby
While the above searches are quite simple, the great thing is the ability to refine your Facebook Graph searches by a variety of criteria, including the type of place, who the place was liked by, specific names, locations, proximity, who the place was visited by, etc. You can also easily pull up rich media like photos and videos from places you’re looking for. You can also get as creative or as wacky about searches as you like… for example, it appears that people who like Star Trek also love Fast Food…
There’s still plenty that needs refinement about Graph Search…plus businesses will need to start optimizing their Facebook pages to ensure they tap into the power of social search. While there are bound to be plenty of social media gurus and snakeoil salesmen touting their Facebook “SEO” capabilities in the future, it appears that simple, common sense tweaks are all that are needed to optimize pages for Facebook Graph Search (at least for now). Examples:
- Ensure your Hotel or Restaurant Facebook Page is correctly set up in terms of location, contact details, geo coordinates and categories
- Claim and merge your Facebook Page and places, eliminating any duplicate places
- Encourage guests and fans to like, share, comment and check-in
- Focus on creating high quality, shareable content that reflects your brand persona and engages your audience
There’s plenty more to come, of course…but the above steps are a great place to start. It also looks like social search is here to stay… privacy always remains a concern, however the great thing about Graph Search is that it only displays content that you should be able to see given your (and other people’s) privacy settings. It still has the capability to dig up old content you may have shared or interacted with before you got privacy savvy on Facebook though, so some personal re-evaluation may be recommended.
Have you tried Facebook’s Graph Search yet? What do you think about the functionality and its potential impact on travel and local businesses like hotels & restaurants? Leave a comment and let us know!