Facebook's Adding a New 'City Guides' Feature to Boost Contextual Recommendations
In an effort to better utilize its vast data insights to improve personal recommendations, Facebook's rolling out a new feature called 'City Guides', which is essentially a friend-sourced tourism listing for popular locations.
Image via TechCrunch
As you can see in the above image sequence, City Guides - which you'll be able to access from the 'More' menu (the three, hamburger-like lines) - provides a listing of major cities and shows you who in your network has been to each. If you go into the city tab, you'll be able to click on the profile image bubbles of your friends to see the places they visited while there, which is determined by Facebook check-ins and location services info.
Knowing where your friends went might make you more inclined to visit the same places, while you can also check the ratings and recommendations they gave for each. You could also, of course, ask them and get their thoughts when deciding where to go.
The tool looks to build on Facebook's efforts to use your social graph to improve the relevance and value of recommendations - Facebook also released a new 'Recommendations' tool last October along similar lines, which enables users to post a query and have it highlighted to friends for advice.
The logic here is that you trust your friends more that you're likely to trust review sites and marketing materials, and facilitating such connection is what Facebook can do better than anyone else. If they can provide improved contextual recommendation tools, it could make you come back to Facebook for such insights more often, boosting engagement.
For marketers, there's obviously no immediate way to influence or control the recommendations listed, though it may inspire more businesses and places of interest to ramp up their efforts to prompt visitor check-ins and recommendations. If you can get more people posting about your business, that'll increase your chances of showing up on the listing - it's more indirect, but if the option sees significant take-up, the benefits could be worth the effort.
In addition, beneath the initial listing of places to go, there's also a list of upcoming events, which could put more emphasis on the need for businesses to post events to Facebook.
City Guides was first seen in testing last year and only now appears to be getting a broader roll out, so it may take some time to become available for all users. As such, it's difficult to determine the potential interest in - and value of - the tool at this stage.
Either way, it's another interesting use of Facebook data which points to the way The Social Network is looking to expand on their personalized recommendations and social graph insights to improve search results - which, if successful, could be another key way for Facebook to become a bigger part of our interactive process.
Follow Andrew Hutchinson on Twitter