How Facebook Open Graph can enhance a marketing campaign

Ad agency DDB New York developed an alternative to Facebook’s Like button called “I Care,” which publishers can embed on their sites and users can click to show support for a cause. MTV is already using the button on its website for social activism and the effort has gotten coverage from a number of industry blogs and publications.

It’s a great idea, but the campaign is missing something: Open Graph integration.

Here we’ll explain what Open Graph is and explore how DDB could benefit from implementing it, so that marketers can get an idea how Facebook can be applied to campaigns in ways beyond fan pages and ads to generate Likes.

What is Open Graph?

Open Graph is the way that Facebook organizes the information and connections on its platform. It is an extension of Facebook’s social graph that anyone can build upon, whether by adding simple a Like button to a website or developing full-scale integrations like Spotify’s music service.

When Facebook began, users could only connect with other users. With the introduction of the Open Graph protocol in 2010, users became able to connect with objects on Facebook and around the web by clicking Like. By adding a bit of code to their sites, publishers could turn any webpage into a Facebook object. That means the page becomes indexed in Facebook search and gets added to user’s profiles.

Last year, Facebook expanded Open Graph to allow users to connect to objects with new verbs besides Like. These include read, watch, listen and play. Similar to how developers can create objects, they can now create actions. When a third-party website or app implements Open Graph actions, that app can automatically generate stories in News Feed, Ticker and Timeline. This democratizes Facebook in a way because it means the site can be filled with actions that users take and objects users interact with all over the web and on native mobile apps, not just what users do directly on the social network.

When we write about “Open Graph apps” on Inside Facebook, we are referring to any Facebook canvas app, mobile app or website that has integrated “actions” as a means for users to share their activity back on Facebook. Unlike traditional Facebook apps, Open Graph apps can publish stories automatically rather than having to continually prompt users to post things to their Walls. Another unique feature is the monthly and yearly summaries that developers can customize to tell interesting stories about users over time.

How could DDB use Open Graph?

DDB New York’s Chief Creative Officer Matt Eastwood tells us the agency came up with the idea for the I Care button after the tsunami in Japan last year. He says there was so much activity in social media, but “Like” wasn’t an appropriate expression for the articles and photos being shared. Although the agency didn’t have a client to develop the I Care button for, it decided to work on the project during off-hours and release it for anyone to use. MTV Voices partnered with DDB for the launch, which was covered on Fast Company, Creativity Online and other industry news sites. The button is still in beta, and Eastwood says the agency will continue to make improvements. Here are some recommendations for how Open Graph could help sustain the campaign.

When users see an I Care button, they can click it to add to the tally of people supporting a cause. Currently, however, there’s little payoff in doing so. An I Care statement isn’t seen by anyone unless the user chooses to share the activity on Facebook, but that requires two more clicks. With Open Graph integration, the I Care app would ask for posting permission one time and then would be able to instantly send stories back to Facebook whenever users click the I Care button on other sites. Pinterest does this with the Pin It button and now Spotify does so with its Play button. The I Care button — and any website it is included on — would likely get more attention if it was synced with Facebook in this way.