Thanks to Facebook and their new Graph Search feature, which was released in a limited beta version earlier this week, people can use the social network to find information about their friends, family and their favorite organizations using natural language search terms.
If you want to learn who in your network lives nearby you, likes to ski and watch The Walking Dead, finding that information is as simple as searching for "Friends that live nearby who like to ski and watch The Walking Dead." It is a genius approach to learn about people on Facebook, pulling information that would have been previously tedious to collect through standard web searches.
However, this affects destination marketing organizations and other travel-related businesses in several ways. Just as these natural language searches can compile data on your personal circle, it can also help compile details about those with Facebook Business Pages. There are some important takeaways about Facebook's announcement for destination marketing organizations that are active on the social network.
Invest in your Page - Since people will be using searches that may not include your organization's name in them, it is important to make sure your Page content is up to date. This includes updating addresses to show up in local searches and making sure terms people use are incorporated in your Page's copy. For example, the Park City Convention and Visitors Bureau should make sure they are adding fresh content about the annual Sundance Film Festival to grab tourists who are searching for "hotels for Sundance Film Festival" with additional information about the destination.
Likes are More Important than Ever - Graph Search works because of connections the user has with his or her network. Therefore, the more people who like your Page will give your DMO more likely of a chance to appear in search results.
Standards are Your Friends - Facebook is making sure that their Graph Search uses the rails they've developed for all users, including those with Business Pages. If you have a custom sub-category or terminology that people do not naturally use in conversations, such as calling hotels "lodging" or "accommodations," then it will hurt your chances to be found.
Tag Your Content - If a picture was taken in front of your business, you need to tag it. Engage your partners to tag your DMO in photos of their hotels, restaurants and events to help you be found and expand your network, so you can be found when somebody searches "Show me photos of Austin Texas." This includes with date information, since you can now search for "Events that happened around me in 2012" or other date-related searches.
Web Searches are Done with...Bing - To quote Mark Zuckerberg from the announcement, "We wouldn't suggest people come and do web searches on Facebook." Yet, they have developed ways to accommodate users who do want to use Graph Search for finding information outside of the social network, which comes from a partnership with Bing. While Google continues to be the most popular search engine in the world, this emphasizes the reason to have your site content optimized for Bing too. These search results will include social context and additional information from Facebook.
Advertising Is Still Here, Same as Before - DMOs can still use the Sponsored Results feature, allowing those with business pages to pay for prime placement in search results. The feature's functionality will not change whether your audience uses Graph Search or not. Those using Graph Search will only have improved ways to do searches, therefore, the chances to target your advertising will only become more precise. Additionally, the Graph Search does not include any new ad formats today.
As we mentioned earlier, Facebook is in the early development of Graph Search, only offering a limited beta release of it at this time. Many of the concepts that will help you get in front of visitors with the new tool - developing fresh content, engaging your members and partners, continually updating your Page and using parameters to your advantage - are not new and can be applied to keeping your website and overall organization relevant today.
Sam Brace is the Communications Manager and Erin Lair is a Search Engine Marketing Analyst for Simpleview. For more information about Facebook Graph Search, read Facebook's official announcement on newsroom.fb.com.