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Social Search
The Shift from Subject Search to Social Search

Written by Sara Lynn Burnett, Coral Range

New media applications such as TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, and other evolving platforms are impacting the decision making process in the hospitality industry in profound ways. These technologies are currently altering the very way that people search for hotels, experiences, and destinations.

Subject search is the way we have all been searching online: you go to google and you type in ‘all-inclusive Caribbean island resorts’ and you see what comes up. The algorithm that determines what you see first is a result of search engine optimization efforts, content marketing, social shares, website quality, mobile responsiveness, and even page load time. With subject search the results are not personalized to the potential guest. However, that’s where social search comes in.

Social search is whenever a user discovers content WITHIN a social media platform. For instance – one of your Facebook friends says they’re looking for recommendations for family-friendly resorts in the Bahamas and then a few people respond with their own positive or negative travel experiences: ‘XYZ Resort was great! Our kids loved it and we had loads of time to ourselves as well! Or ‘Stay away from XYZ Resort, the food made Sammy sick and the front desk couldn’t even find medicine.’

More likely than not, a decision will be made based on a friend’s recommendation since studies show that 4 out of 5 consumers trust their friends and family members’ recommendations.

You can see social search happening more and more as potential guests research destinations on Instagram via hashtags, twitter, or typing in ‘Caribbean Resorts’ to the search bar on Facebook. The advantages of this to the user are that they’ll see which of their friends, family, or favorite online influencers are connected to places and experiences they’re considering. This means that your presence on social media platforms is more important than ever.

Things to Consider:

  1. Since your website is still your point of sale if you publish articles on Facebook Instant Articles, or share Instagram photos, be sure that there’s a link (in Instagram’s case place it in your profile).
  2. Remember balance: You have different segments so don’t ever put all your digital eggs in one basket.
  3. Begin to strategize for when social search is utilized as much as google. What is your medium-term plan for when 50% of searches are being conducted within an app? Start laying the groundwork for this future reality.
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