The changing face of search: Facebook takes on Google

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The launch of Facebook’s Graph Search has some interesting implications for the travel marketers. Could a trip-planning tool that allows users to discover, coordinate and plan their trips soon be available in a format that can be stored within the Facebook application?

The search landscape is changing rapidly and with the launch of Facebook Graph Search, semantic search steps up another level. EyeforTravel’s Pamela Whitby asks Robert Patterson, Vice President of Social Media & Influencer Marketing at travel marketing firm MMGY Global, what he makes of this recent move by the social networking giant.

EFT: What are the potential implications on the travel industry of Facebook's Graph Search?

RP: In terms of the consumer travel, Facebook Graph Search is a smart recommendation engine based on semantic search. Research tells us that consumers turn to their friends and family for travel recommendations and trust those recommendations most. Facebook is facilitating those connections and recommendations. Once rolled out to all users, Facebook users will be able to more easily discover where their friends and family have travelled to and what they like prior to engaging them with more evolved travel questions. With the search emphasis on people, places and photos, users will be able to uncover information and engage with their connections about the travel experience they want to learn about. This is a huge evolutionary leap for travel discovery through social media.

Prior to this new feature, users would either engage with someone about travel that they knew had the travel experience they wanted to learn more about, or they would have to open up the discovery to users who may not be relevant to their inquiry. Now users will be able to drill down to the users that have the information they are seeking and message those individuals directly.

EFT: What impact does this have on travel brands?

RP: The Facebook Graph Search impact for brands will be in continued and increased investment in the platform through page optimisation, organic and paid efforts to grow Facebook Page audiences and engaging those audiences in meaningful ways. I also hope to see brands being able to leverage the search data and queries in order to provide more relevant Facebook Advertising products.

EFT: What does it mean for Google?

RP: Facebook is the number one website that users spend their time on in the US and in many other countries. The addition of a richer search experience means that users will stay longer on the site. However, the web search integration with Bing is still not the preferred web search engine users are looking for. I believe we will still see many users leave Facebook to execute a web search on Google. The larger impact Google may have to contend with is local places as Facebook evolves its ‘Nearby’ and Graph Search functionalities to offer suggestions, reviews and ratings. This is especially evident, as the Facebook app has just surpassed the Google Maps app to become the number one utilised mobile application. Ironically the ‘Nearby’ functionality in Facebook's application utilises Google Maps for location and directions.

EFT: As a travel marketer, what are you hoping for from the move?

RP: I think we can probably expected to see an increase in organic likes driven by Facebook Graph Search. Facebook has taken the right steps to make the search result listings for businesses in search queries such as ‘hotels my friends have visited in Chicago’ include clear calls to action in order for users to like a hotel page, map the location or see photos of the property. I would also expect to see Facebook develop a trip-planning tool that would utilise Graph Search and ‘Nearby’ to enable users to discover, coordinate and plan their trips in a format that can be stored within the Facebook application.

To hear further insights from Robert Patterson, Vice President of Social Media & Influencer Marketing at travel marketing firm MMGY Global, join us in San Francisco on March 18-19 for Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel 2013

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