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What you need to know about Facebook's Open Graph

What you need to know about Facebook's Open Graph

By Claire Weekes, senior reporter, UTalkmarketing

Facebook's agency group head, David Parfect will be speaking at UTalkMarketing's Digital Brand Strategy Summit on November 22, about how brands can use the social graph to truly integrate Facebook into their communications strategy. Book your ticket to DBSS now - just a few remain!

This week Facebook released stats which give a glimpse into how its Open Graph is starting to benefit brands. For those that don’t know, Open Graph was unveiled by the social networking giant at its f8 developer conference a little over a month ago. In a nutshell, it allows any third party website willing to display Facebook features – such as the “Like” button – on its site to then integrate their content within Facebook’s walls.

As a user you’ve probably already seen examples of how Open Graph is working – you may have noticed in the new ticker feed that you can see that a friend has listened to a particular track via Spotify or read a particular article on the Guardian’s website.

Yesterday (November 9), Facebook announced that since Open Graph launched in September, Spotify has added “well over four million” users. And it’s not just the big boys in the music sharing industry that are seeing results either. Earbits, a start-up built by a team of musicians, say they’ve seen a 1350 per cent increase in the number of users becoming fans of the band they’re listening to, and French music on demand company, Deezer, says it’s added more than 10,000 users per day since finalising its Open Graph integration.

At the moment, the benefits of Open Graph are being seen mainly by third party music and publisher brands. But before long, it looks likely that we’ll be able to know what our friends are drinking, buying, watching – you name it. Facebook is only likely to push its Open Graph system more and more as it gears up for the imminent launch of the long awaiting Timeline.

Of course until now, the primary way for brands to communicate with their customers and prospect has been via brand pages, and these are still very much active. But as Joshua March, co-founder of software as a service company Conversocial explains, the Open Graph adds another layer to the brand-to-customer experience on the site.

“[It] allows you to make products more social and more viral, building in automated sharing to activities people do on the web, on their phones or even offline, and utilise social data to make things more sticky and engaging”, he says – however warning that “this is great, but isn't a replacement for really listening and interacting with your customers on your page."

“It’s called frictionless sharing, and the viral potential is huge”, adds Martin Smith, UK head of marketing at marketing technology provider, Neolane.

Innovative monetising of the masses

The introduction of the Open Graph signals that Facebook is serious about showing brands that it can monetise its mass, 800 million strong audience. Facebook Ads have to date been lucrative to a lot of brands because of the level of precise targeting that can be achieved with them. But there is little getting away from the fact that Facebook Ads are simply a form of display advertising. Surely this internet pioneer needs a more innovative way in which to prove its worth to advertisers? Nick Fuller, senior director, customer engagement and strategy at agency e-Dialog thinks this is what the introduction of Open Graph and the new Timeline to follow it are all about.

“The launch of Timeline – through a partnership with Netflix, Spotify and Yahoo – is maybe a sign of things to come.  It makes good sense for marketers of music, films and news to take up the opportunity of placing their content in front of the friends of those who are consuming it – and Facebook is exactly the place to do it,” he says.

“It’s a much more compelling prospect than the sharing of user data through social log ins, which seems to produce a lot of unstructured personal information that is of limited use to marketers. [Then there is] the subject  sensitivity - many [consumers] opt out of the prospect of apps that require the transfer of such data – they see it as too high a price to pay.”

So Open Graph is here – when will the Timeline (which again, for anyone not in the know will replace user profile pages and heralds the most significant design overhaul Facebook has seen to date) make its appearance? According to rumours we’re just weeks away from its unveiling. But amidst the excitement over these new Facebook additions and what, potentially they could offer up for brands, there remain questions over whether the early successes for "digital only" product makers such as Spotify will translate to similar success for makers of physical products further down the line.

“Amidst all of this debate, maybe we are missing the really big story. Social commerce is potentially the game changer - for some brands the chance for Facebook users to buy there and then removes the issue of how to entice them away from the social community and into a store, says Fuller.

“Timeline is a step in that direction but for a limited number of digital only products; the potential for extending this to physical products (via Facebook Mall and many other developments) will represent a far more radical sea change for Facebook, its advertisers and its users”.


 





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