What Can Facebook’s Open Graph Do?

By Justin Lafferty 

Facebook’s open graph can be a powerful tool for brands, provided they know how to use it. As more and more companies look to gain a foothold on the social network, open graph is a key way to foster engagement. Jon Eccles, product manager of social integration for Thismoment, spoke with AllFacebook about how brands are leveraging this technology to both spread the word and create a dialogue with Facebook users.

For those who don’t know, Facebook’s open graph is one of the social network’s basic concepts. Facebook introduced it in 2010, and it has since opened it up to third-party applications. For instance, if you choose to log into Spotify with Facebook, the music application uses open graph technology to post what you’re listening to onto your friends’ news feeds. Friends can then comment, like, or listen to the song. It’s a way to take a static action (a user listening to a song) and turn into a potential social action:

Essentially, any website where you see some kind of official call to action to log in or connect via Facebook — that brand is using Facebook’s open graph.

Eccles’ company, Thismoment, works with major brands such as Coca-Cola, Lexus, and The Hunger Games on their Facebook campaigns. When a brand signs on with ThisMoment, it can opt into using open graph as a way to connect with users. It is built into Thismoment’s platform, and right now, Eccles notes that several entities are still not quite using open graph to its full potential:

Most brands tend to think in terms of the campaign that lasts three to four months. Open graph is something that requires building out a larger system, and also building out a larger interface where the user can carry out actions. Because of this, I think we’ve seen brands not adopt open graph as widely as they should be. That’s not a good thing, because open graph is incredibly powerful. I think it is going to shift the way that a lot of people share on the Internet.

Eccles notes that while there’s a complicated barrier of entry for brands  trying to navigate open graph by themselves, it is a powerful tool once utilized. He pointed out part of one customer’s campaign, Lexus, where fans of the car company could create a time point on the page based on things that they remember, such as when a favorite model came out or when the company released a new feature that made driving more luxurious.

Through open graph, Eccles said brands can see what is being shared, how it’s being shared, and by whom, in order to gain a better understanding of their fan base. From this information, brands can then determine what it is that their fans enjoy reading, listening to, watching, and sharing.

Generally, the communication between brands and users has been fairly one-sided, with pages sharing links or videos and hoping for some traffic. Now with open graph, it takes some of the responsibility out of the brands’ hands, allowing users to control what content is being shared.

Eccles thinks that this kind of engagement is what most companies will soon seek:

Just about any marketer will tell you that word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. With open graph, and the fact that users can publish actions on their behalf based on how they’re engaging with a Facebook application they’ve authorized, then this actually means that as a brand, you don’t have to worry about publishing your stories anymore. All you have to worry about is generating the right ways that a user can engage with you to automatically publish these stories. The conversation is more relevant because it’s happening among just the users and their friends, and the conversation is more likely to be responded to because it’s that user’s friend, who is already going to be interested in what their friend is doing.

Open graph actions in the news feed are more explicit than just shared links or things of that nature, which can often get lost in the noise. It’s a way for brands to get through to the vital friends-of-fans demographic that everyone is trying to chase. Facebook games, as well as apps like Netflix, use open graph in this manner, by sharing on news feeds that the user has defeated a certain level or just watched a movie. It makes the message more relevant because it’s coming from someone that a user knows, not a brand.

Readers: What brands are the best at utilizing Facebook’s open graph technology?