How Facebook Killed The Web’s Incognito Days

By Guest Writer 

The early days of the Web opened the doors to everyone’s interests. You might have thought you were the only one in the world thinking like you. But after a quick search on, say, AltaVista, you realized that there was an entire forum dedicated to the obsession of (add your [weird] interest). You could do whatever you wanted — read, watch, and listen — and nobody could follow what you did.

Today, you’re more incognito going down to the record store to buy that Backstreet Boys album you secretly love than listening to it on Spotify or watching a video on Netflix. You can be sure it leaves a trace somewhere — a trace that can be held against a ‘90s-boy-band lover like you.

The Open Graph Sees You!

Facebook was built around the social graph, a mathematical model that showed connections between all the millions of users. If you did, or do, something on Facebook, that information is visible people whom the Facebook algorithm thinks are relevant.

With the open graph, this is expanded to external, third-party websites. Site owners are able to connect their websites and applications to Facebook. When you do something on their sites, this information is transferred to Facebook to show up in your friends’ news feeds.

Of course, we have to allow Facebook to connect with our user on third-party sites and apps. But this is often done very cunningly so that people actually do it — it benefits both Facebook and the site owner.

Sometimes you feel like the connection is the default mode.

So, if you have your boss on Facebook, he might see — if the Facebook algorithm thinks it’s relevant to him — that you played Bejeweled Blitz during work hours. If you’re not willing to reveal this information, think about what data you allow Facebook to fetch from whatever activities you’re up to.

A Wet Dream For An Advertiser

Now it may seem like I’m all negative about this development. That’s wrong. My point is that this is actually a true opportunity for advertisers. Everything you do (or even more important your customers do) could be incorporated on Facebook, and then the open graph can decide who is relevant to see what and where it should end up: the news feed, ticker, or timeline.

Application developers and site owners that manage to capitalize on this can benefit a lot from connecting with Facebook’s application-programming interface and beginning to pump in data. It’s a great way to reach non-fans and spread the word about your business.

Working with Qwaya, a Facebook ad tool, I know that social context is highly important when trying to create a buzz around a brand and raise awareness. All of the most successful ad campaigns in this field traditionally revolve around sponsored stories and real people rather than impersonal external website ads. Luckily, the open graph now also helps you connect those impersonal external websites to Facebook with social plug-ins (and renders the traditional banners obsolete). This means that the social context offered by Facebook expands beyond Facebook.

Open graph is proof that the social aspects of advertising are becoming increasingly important for people using Facebook ads to spread the word about their brands and connecting external websites to a social context.

Will Larson, director of engineering at Digg, for instance, talked about the success Digg has seen from using open graph.

So my two suggestions are:

  • If you have an app, or anything else that can be connected to Facebook with a social plug in, look into connecting with Facebook to increase the social context of your inventory.
  • If your customers use your app, or interact with your social plug-ins on any of your inventory, use the valuable social context momentum to advertise to friends of friends.

Daniel Bromberg is the marketing director at Facebook advertising tool Qwaya.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.