At f8 in September 2011, Facebook introduced three major changes to the site: Open Graph applications, the home page Ticker, and the profile Timeline. These changes significantly impact marketers because they create new opportunities for gaining brand exposure and driving traffic to Facebook Pages, applications, and websites.
Here we’ll examine how Open Graph apps, the Ticker, and Timeline function and explain how marketers need to alter their strategies to take advantage of these apps and distribution channels.
The following is an excerpt of an entry in our Facebook Marketing Bible. The full version contains more complete explanations of how Open Graph apps, the Ticker, and the Timeline work. It also contains more strategies and examples for how to gain traffic and users by integrating the Open Graph into Page tab apps, canvas apps, and websites.
Overview of Ticker, Timeline, and Open Graph Apps
Facebook has created two new viral channels to the site to which special kinds of Facebook applications and Facebook-integrated websites can publish content — the home page Ticker and the profile Timeline. A new priority for you as a marketer will be getting your brand’s content into these channels. We’ll now summarize the functionality of the Ticker, Timeline, and Open Graph apps but outlining strategies for using them to aid your business.
Open Graph Apps
Facebook allows developers to create “Open Graph applications” — Facebook.com apps and Facebook-integrated websites that can ask users for permission to publish activity to Facebook whenever they take an in-app action without having to prompt the user to share each time.
Once users grant and app or website persistent publishing permission, their activity is published to the Tickers of friends and their own Timeline. Developers choose a verb and a noun which are used in the published activity stories.
- Spotify publishes whenever a user listens to a song, “Josh listened to [song] on Spotify”.
- Dojo, a personal goal tracking website, publishes whenever a user visits the site and checks off that they’ve completed part of a goal such as doing 50 pushups or cleaning their kitchen, “Josh practiced [goal] with Dojo”.
- A hypothetical branded photo contest app could publish when users submit a photo to a competition “Josh submitted a photo with Brand X’s Contest App”.
Along with publishing individual activity stories, Open Graph apps can publish “Reports” or summaries of a user’s activity. Developers can choose between different Report layouts and define what activity will be aggregated and how it will be sorted. Marketers can use Open Graph apps to gain more users for their apps by publishing user activity stories and compelling Reports that the friends of their users will want to click through.
Ticker is a secondary news feed shown in the Facebook home page’s right sidebar that displays to users short, simple text activity stories about the people they’re friends with and the Pages they Like.
The Ticker’s main impact on marketers is that by creating applications with Open Graph functionality and getting users to interact with them, they gain exposure in the Ticker for activity stories that contain links to their applications. This helps their applications gain more users.
Facebook has redesigned the profile into what it calls Timeline. Timeline lets users “feature” specific activity stories, expanding them to appear larger on their profile. Timeline also automatically displays “Recent Activity” sections for music apps, news reader apps, and video apps, as well as a general section of activity in other apps. By getting users to use your apps, you can gain viral exposure in these sections.
Getting your app into a user’s Timeline Views, Recent Activity, and Reports can give your application exposure that will help it gain new users.
Strategies for Marketing Through Open Graph Apps
The key to marketing through Open Graph Apps is getting users to complete actions you can publish to the Ticker and Timeline, rather than explicitly completing a Share dialog. People visiting your Facebook Page or website are probably already taking actions that you could publish. Your goal now should be to figure out what these actions are and build Open Graphs that let structure them into activity stories.
Turn Wall Posts into Activity Stories
What do people do when they visit your Facebook Page? A popular action is to write on your wall with messages of thanks, questions about your product, or customer service inquiries. You can turn these actions into activity stories by creating Page tab applications with Open Graph functionality.
Your app could provide different entry fields for the different common types of wall posts, and ask users for permission to publish an activity story whenever they enter text in one of these fields. For example, if a user entered “How much does your product cost?” you could publish an activity story that says “Josh asked a question with Brand X’s Feedback App”. ‘Asked’ is your verb and ‘a question’ is your noun.
Fundamentally, the introduction of Open Graph apps mean marketers need to get their users to give them persistent publishing permission and complete actions that can be automatically shared, rather than explicitly asking them to share individual actions.
By following these strategies for integrating Open Graph functionality into your Facebook Page tab apps, Facebook.com apps, and Facebook-integrated websites, you can turn user actions into activity stories that drive traffic to you Page, app, or site. Experiment to see what actions produce the most interesting activity stories and Reports, and redesign your apps and sites to encourage these types of actions.
Access the rest of our strategies and examples for integrating the Open Graph into Facebook Pages, apps, and websites in the full version of this article available in the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s comprehensive guide to how all of Facebook’s features can be employed for marketing.