Getting "Scroogled" was entered into our lexicon as the result of recent TV commercial campaign launched by Microsoft. To get "Facebucked" was a term associated with the graphic novel satire, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks" published in 2010. Both are aptly associated with advertising strategies used by Google and Facebook as they apply to the hotel industry.
There's been a lot of controversy associated with Google's changes to its search algorithm over the course of the last few years, including the many Panda updates that have virtually shuttered hundreds of publishing sites. However, the hotel and travel industry has been significantly impacted by Google's Hotel Finder of recent date, while the online travel agents (OTAs) are benefitting from the business directed their way.
At the end of last year, Google announced that its new product, Hotel Finder would be launched globally. Its functionality is a search tool designed to make it easier for people to compare hotels for their trips with features such as location filters, maps, dates, price and both user and hotel ratings.
According to BizCommunity.com, "simply put, Hotel Finder is a travel comparison platform where Google decides which hotels or travel agents will rank highest for local hotel-related search queries." When searching for a hotel, users are given results matching their criteria. When clicking on a specific hotel listing, the primary window displays the hotel's information together with a big red booking button.
In an example used by BizCommunity.com, one would assume that by clicking on the booking button that the searcher would be linked to to the hotel's website. This is however not always the case, as Google often directs these types of searches to the booking form of an OTA, such as Booking.com, Priceline, Expedia or Travelocity, instead of the hotel's site.
So the travel aggregator reaps the benefit of new visitors, while hotels have seen a marked decline in traffic. One of the more significant sources of Google's data is derived from "Google Places" and its local business listings. "Google has published on its website that it uses information from the Google Places listings in order to create a description of the hotel. However it uses other data sources (such as images from hotel websites, Google+ Local and data received form its many partners) in order to rank and display information on Hotel Finder," notes Gilllian Meier at BizCommunity.com.
Facebook launched "Graph Search" earlier this year, and it is still being beta-tested. In its simplest form, it's a tool essentially used to compete with Google in some respects, as searchers will now use the social network as a search engine.
According to Frank Zamora at Vizergy, a hotel consultancy firm, "the Graph Search tool will show results that are unique to each searcher, based on their location and all the people and items connected to them. When it comes to hotels, travel shoppers can obtain personalized reviews, comments and photos – from people they trust – about hotels they're interested in."
It appears the purpose of Graph Search could be poised to be a major threat to Google, but also to Foursquare and Yelp, based on their geolocation features. A Tnooz report states, that "by providing search functionality that will let you find friends who have been to (and enjoyed) relevant hotels and other destinations, it is likely that many consumers will prefer to rely on Social Graph information instead of the more anonymous user generated content that comes from other platforms like Google+ Local."
Most of the early reviews pertaining to Graph Search are actually very good. However in the short term, one needs to weigh in, whether the FB ecosystem could possibly be a better barometer than some of other referral sites such as TripAdvisor or Kayak.
The essential fact that while FB promises to put hotel brands together with socially relevant people, places, interests and photos, the truth is that the link between social interactions and a search for a specific locale or hotel are much weaker than FB would want you to believe at this juncture of their offering.
TalkForumNY.com's recent post titled, "Graph Search's Dirty Promise and The Con of the Facebook 'Like'" points to "computer architecture" labeling out-of-date pieces of data as "dirty."
"Accessing dirty data is bad, wasting time and causing more harm than good. And in this context, much of the structured data that makes up Graph Search is just that: totally irrelevant and dirty," notes the report. So if the data is "dirty," how can one depend on the hotel search result that is presented to a user, particularly when they are showing up as a recommendation?
In the brand advertising space of CPMs, many large hotel brands have been actually dedicating large ad spends to "acquire fans," which in essence means they are literally buying "LIKES."
Why? Because Mark Zuckerberg et al learned early on that they could convince large brands like the Marriotts and Hiltons of this world, that they must have fans. In fact, in my personal experience as a marketing consultant, I've been asked hundreds of times, as to how I could help build a hotel's FB fanbase, more than I've been asked to increase revenues for said hotel. So once bought into "the need" aspect, ad agencies "dedicated creative, planning and strategy resources to get the these big brands to pay to have users click—almost 100% of the time because the user was promised some sweepstake or contest," noted TalkForumNY.com.
The outcome at this stage is less than optimal. One direct effect of all this passive liking is the accumulation of more and more "dirty data." In the graphic novel satire, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," Z-Man (aka Zuckerberg) looks to a time where every object on this planet is attached to a LIKE.
That world is somewhere's off in the distant future, but it will be interesting to see if either Google or Facebook's strategic approaches are going to be the prominent driver in this current decade? Unfortunately, during the beta period of both strategies, the users will continued to be "Scroogled" and/or "Facebucked" until Google and Facebook have had enough time to clean all of our dirty laundry!
Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel