Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Facebook Graph Search seen as ‘game changer’

Facebook Graph Search seen as ‘game changer’

By Laura Del Rosso
InsightHome-based agents who only have been dipping their toes into social media, questioning whether such efforts generate a return on investment, may want to rethink their position as Facebook rolls out Graph Search, a program that could dramatically improve travel marketing opportunities.

Susan Black, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Travel Impressions, calls Graph Search a “game changer.”

“For those travel agents who haven't gotten the [social media] bug, this is going to be what Google was to the Internet,” Black said. “It's going to be unbelievable how it will change the way people use Facebook.”

Graph Search, which has been available to some users in beta testing and is being rolled out gradually to all Facebook users, is a search engine that has been described as a cross between Google, Yelp and LinkedIn.

It enables Facebook users to search for people, places and things based on their friends and their location. For example, a user can search “Friends who have been to Cancun” or “Hotels in Montreal” and any relevant tagged photos pop up.

For agents, the potential is enormous, said Black, because any photos that are tagged from vacations and other trips will show up in searches.

“Say someone wants to travel to Cancun and wants to get information. They can search their friends and even friends of friends and pull up photos of Cancun that have been tagged. … This is an amazing opportunity for travel agents who have been to a place and know it well to demonstrate their expertise.”

Black said that even without Graph Search, Facebook offers much opportunity for marketing, particularly to engage with potential clients in ways that show travel knowledge and to promote not solely based on price.

“What travel agents do best is to use their expertise and inside information, and that's what they should be showing on social media. It's like going to a cocktail party. You wouldn't just introduce yourself at a party and immediately tell someone there's a Caribbean package available for $899. You'd engage with them first, build a relationship and show your expertise. It should be 80% telling your story and 20% making the sale.”

Black and Katie Gorga, senior manager of social media, conduct social media workshops for agents through Travel Impressions' Social U program, most recently at the New York Times Travel Show where 150 agents heard their presentation “Going Viral in 2013: 42 Tips to Get More Fans, Generate Buzz and Drive Sales.”

Graph Search will be the topic of the next Social U seminar on March 12 at 2 p.m. Eastern online.