Social search comes of age with new Facebook Graph Search launch

With much drum-rolling last week Facebook unveiled the beta-version of Graph Search, a brand new social search engine that will enable Facebook users to search for restaurants and other businesses or products that are rated or liked by their friends.

Social search has long been muted as the next big thing online, but until now, it's been difficult to search through the masses of review data created by your friends and wider network on social media sites.

No doubt, this feature's development has been prompted by statistics that prove the consumer's appetite for using social data as a support when making purchase decisions.   For example, recent stats from Facebook indicate that 49% of consumers use the social media channel to research restaurants. Research from Clickfox tells us that a whopping 97% of customers are 'somewhat influenced' or 'very influenced' by other customers' comments about companies.   And most interestingly, Google-commissioned research from 2011 indicated that 72% of customers are now influenced by online review sites, restaurant search results, social media recommendations, Facebook and Twitter updates and many other types of online conversations before making a decision about what restaurant to visit.

So what does this mean for the hospitality industry?  Firstly, it's become essential that you have a strong, vibrant presence on all the major social channels.  And secondly, if you're not already monitoring, participating and anticipating social searches and conversations relating to your brand, then it's time to get on the case double quick.   

Also, if you are to win the game of influencing customer purchase decisions online, you need to think strategically about how you're going to achieve this.  I suggest that you will need to;

  • Put someone in charge
  • Allocate resources
  • Establish exactly how customers are researching your brand online
  • Create responses to the questions customers ask about your brand
  • Consider how you can react to up-and-coming trends/opportunities at speed
  • Continuously review and improve

With this plan in place, I believe you're going to set yourself miles ahead of the competition and slap bang in the middle of your customer's gaze when they next go searching online for a place to eat out.

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