New Open Graph policy will help Facebook understand affinity

Facebook today announced that developers who create custom Open Graph actions that express affinity — for example, love, favorite or star — will need to associate their verbs with the social network’s built-in Like action. The change will help Facebook’s system better understand the nature of the connections users are making and the stories they are telling through Open Graph.

Since Facebook began allowing developers to create custom verbs for their apps last year, one of the most popular action types are those that express affinity. There’s “love,” “favorite,” “smileyface,” “yum,” “nom” and more. Now the social network wants developers who create these type of verbs to indicate that they are variants of “like.” This provides some semantic meaning for the new connections being built through third-party apps. By organizing data this way, Facebook can come up with better ways to present affinity stories in News Feed and improve its ad targeting.

For example, if a person “reads” a book, it is not clear whether or not they enjoyed it. It might not be relevant to show the person an ad for another book from the same author. However, if a person “favorites” a book, that action is equivalent to a “like” and it would make sense to show the person ads for similar books. Currently, there are ways for advertisers to target users by specific actions, such as favoriting a particular book. As Open Graph expands and developers create more custom verbs, it makes sense for Facebook to begin grouping them so that advertisers don’t have to specifically target people who “favorited,” “liked,” “starred,” “loved,” and “enjoyed” a book. They can simply target people who “like” the book, and Facebook’s system will make sure it gets to the right audience.

The change announced today is not a breaking change, so developers can continue to use the custom actions they created. They do, however, have to resumbit their actions after indicating that the action is associated with “like.” Facebook encourages developers who do not have a strong need to create custom verbs to express affinity should use the built-in Like action, which generates user notifications, whereas custom actions will not.

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