Facebook now offers developers an easy way to allow users to follow other users’ activity within Open Graph applications, even if those users are not friends.
With the new built-in “follow” action, users will be able to get updates about other users’ app activity within the Facebook News Feed, rather than needing to visit the app to find out about it. For example, a person might follow a journalist within a social news app to see what they are reading or follow a celebrity chef within a food review app. Having these stories within News Feed could lead more users to see this activity and then visit the app or share it with friends.
Some apps like Pinterest and Quora have already been using their own Open Graph “follow” actions to share this type of activity back to Facebook, but now Facebook has made “follow” built-in, just as it has done with “read,” “watch,” “listen” and “like.” Built-in verbs can include additional benefits. In the case of “follow,” developers will get additional distribution through News Feed, Ticker, Timeline and notifications.
The action of following someone will generate a story in Ticker and in the recent activity box on Timeline. Users will also get a Facebook notification when they follow someone. These features promote re-engagement and viral growth, though it’s odd that users who are followed don’t receive a notification that someone followed them. Likely to drive even more re-engagement is the feature that will put any user’s app activity in News Feed. Many users visit Facebook several times a day, but they don’t always visit other services as frequently. Now users won’t have to think to visit another app or site on their own. They will see prompts in News Feed that will take them there.
We saw evidence of Facebook testing a new “follow” action earlier this week, and wondered whether it might have been related to a deeper Twitter integration. Now it seems what we saw was likely related to today’s announcement. However, this might be further reason for Twitter to build an Open Graph app and take advantage of Facebook’s viral mechanics to engage users who aren’t as active as others.
Facebook says it will no longer approve custom follow actions. Apps that currently use a custom follow action must migrate to use the built-in follow in the next 90 days. Technical documentation about the built-in “follow” action is available here.