Restaurants & Facebook

To begin our Local meets Digital segment this week, we're going to look at what appears to be the first use of the Facebook stars ratings, at least the first use that we've been able to find.

Facebook Graph SearchWith Graph Search, Facebook is giving us some insights into what they are doing behind the scenes. Check out what they are presenting at the moment when you begin to interact with Graph Search.

Facebook is well-known for frequent live beta-testing of what features they deploy and how those features are prioritized. For the moment it looks like Restaurants and Games are at the top of the priority list inside of the Graph Search experiment.  

With this kind of attention being paid to restaurants, one of our favorite categories, we decided to dig a bit deeper. We were immediately curious about how Facebook was determining what to present in these results, so we did some quick research.

We used numerous devices with various locations and several different Facebook users. While we won't hope to guess at everything that is going into the algorithm that's being used to present results, uniformly the thing we identified as an apparent key driver in results what the Facebook 'Star Rating' of the restaurants listed.  

The team carefully logged the list of restaurants that came up in each list of results, including: distance in miles, whether or not the user had "liked" the restaurants previously, number of page likes, number of check-ins, the number of Facebook 'Stars' and several other factors.

Graph Search Restaurants Nearby

We saw what appeared to be little correlation to most factors that we tracked, other than in all cases the Restaurants were presented in descending order according to the Star Rating.

After the designation of "nearby" had been attached, with whatever logic Facebook has built into that, Stars appear to be the most significant of the immediately identifiable factors driving results.

We don't have the insight into other factors, for example who is an active Facebook advertiser out of the listed results. There is really no reason to believe that we're not getting purely or primarily PPC advertising in this section, more to come on that. 

In fact there is good reason to speculate that Facebook is taking aim at the hospitality segment as a revenue source. After all, whether you're a social media skeptic or proponent, you have to admit that Facebook's best content is primarily composed of pictures of babies and food, with pithy social commentary by friends and contacts coming in a distant third.

Facebook is always looking for ways to more effectively monetize their traffic [as a publicly traded company that's their job].

Most parents, though happy to share pictures of the kids via Facebook, aren't looking to pay a premium to enhance their reach via Facebook's Newsfeed or Graph Search.  

Restaurants on the other hand are a pretty good target advertiser for Facebook, something that based on the Graph Search drop-down above, the Facebook marketing department appears to be exploring, if not yet fully exploiting. What other industries that are using Social Media will Facebook look to specifically target next, and is it a good thing or not for those industries? 

Come back (and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter) to get more in our upcoming series on Local Meets Digital, as well as more on our survey of Graph Search.

- Guest Blogging on "Local Meets Digital" thanks to Agency Westchester