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Last month, Facebook unveiled Facebook Home, a new home screen interface for Android mobile devices. The site gives users a good overview of the interface and is worth bookmarking as a reference. Although immediate online consumer reactions to the product have been lukewarm, there is an undeniable excitement regarding its potential to be a powerful mobile marketing medium. With more and more travelers booking their rooms through mobile devices, hoteliers should start considering the opportunities and challenges that Facebook Home can bring.
Facebook Home replaces your traditional mobile home screen with a Cover Feed, a steady stream of full-screen photos and status updates from your friends and pages.
Although the first version of the product will not feature ad units, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is “sure that at some point there will be” In order to be optimize your hotel’s presence on the Cover Feed, hoteliers must continue to execute sound social media strategy: drive users to Facebook pages, respond to their comments, and offer engaging content. When occupying a user’s entire mobile screen, it is best practice to deliver beautiful, high quality content. For example, sharing stunning pictures of unbelievable getaways and travel destinationswill persuade users to subscribe to your brand’s updates in their Cover Feed.
When Facebook Home does roll out targeted ads, it will be interesting to see its effect on same-day bookings. Currently, between 60 to 70 percent of same-day bookings are made from a mobile device. The majority of these bookings are made through apps like Hotel Tonight. If a hotel can offer personalized, well-timed, location-based ads on a user’s Cover Feed, it might be able to lead guests to book directly on its hotel website and avoid paying third-party booking fees. On the other hand, these “mobile from the ground up” booking apps are probably better suited to develop services that seamlessly integrate into Facebook Home.
Hoteliers that wish to learn more about Facebook Home’s impact on the hospitality industry should pay close attention to statements from Lee McCabe, Head of Travel at Facebook. McCabe was hired in 2012 to define what Facebook products mean for the travel and hospitality industries. Since then, Facebook has introduced two promising products for hotels: Graph Search and Local Search (previously Nearby). Local Search allows users to find businesses near them at any given location, and Graph search allows users to obtain personalized search results based on friends’ interests and recommendations. Both products do not scrape the Web for reviews or ratings. Instead, your results are determined solely by mentions in your friend network.
Once these two products have been integrated into Facebook Home, the hospitality industry will have to consider a new type of review site. Some users will continue to use traditional review sites like TripAdvisor, while other users will prefer to trust their friends’ collective opinion on Graph Search. In the latter case, a four star hotel in my friend network could only be a three star hotel in yours. If Facebook Home gains traction, the hospitality industry must set out to understand how friends and acquaintances influence our lodging decisions, and, most importantly, how to gain the trust and loyalty of one friend group at a time.