Interview: Facebook Graph Search will add hotels and then social signals to fine-tune results
Facebook plans to add a hotel category to its Graph Search, which is still in limited beta.
Facebook’s success with Graph Search depends entirely upon users’ willingness to share as much as they currently do, and then some. Whether or not that will continue to be the case is still to be determined.
Facebook’s new Graph Search, which enables you to search the social network for restaurants, games, music, photos and friends, will soon be adding hotels as a category, and that should give surviving social travel startups something to think about.
Lee McCabe, Facebook’s new head of travel, explains that hotels will be added to the mix, adding that he believes Graph Search “will be a game-changer for travel.”
With Graph Search, Facebook users will be able to explore the hotels their friends stay at, and things to do nearby.
Skift took Graph Search out for a spin a couple of weeks ago, and we noted that its restaurant search, which enables you to find nearby restaurants and your Facebook friends who have visited them, has a lot of information gaps.
It’s too early to say how it will all turn out, though, as Facebook hasn’t even released Graph Search to users en masse, and the social network is still testing the product and gathering feedback.
McCabe says Graph Search taps “the wisdom of friends,” which he sees as the next stage in the evolution of key travel-influencers, having historically followed travel agents/guidebooks/experts, online travel agency algorithms, and the wisdom of crowds through users reviews.
“The definition of expert is changing,” McCabe says, “especially with millennials.”
He notes that “one simple guidebook” just won’t cut it anymore.
But even McCabe acknowledges that the “wisdom of friends” may not be enough if your friends aren’t particularly well-traveled or otherwise experienced.
To solve that problem and expand the network, Facebook intends to add “other social signals” to Graph Search, McCabe says.
Without providing specifics about what Facebook ultimately will do, McCabe says these social signals might include things such as advice from “friends of friends” and also “look-alikes,” in other words, people who have similar travel patterns to the user.
And, Facebook undoubtedly has a lot of data about users’ travel patterns and likes.
This all may be a big challenge to social travel sites. Why use a social travel site built on top of Facebook when the traveler can just use Facebook?
McCabe doesn’t necessarily see it that way — or at least he isn’t articulating it.
In response to a question, he says social travel sites and apps such as TripAdvisor and Gogobot “have good potential” as they can use Facebook APIs to personalize and make their products more relevant.
While Graph Search will soon include a hotel category, adding other sectors such as airlines and cruises are not in the plans for now, McCabe says.
But, monetization of Graph Search definitely is part of the plan.
Facebook is concentrating on getting Graph Search “right,” McCabe says, adding that “monetization comes right after.”
Later in the interview he says monetization will take “awhile.”
Hotels should make sure they have and keep updating their Facebook pages, categorize them correctly, and encourage likes and check-ins, McCabe says.
Adds McCabe: “If you don’t have a page, you are not going to show up.”