What Open Graph means for marketers

With Open Graph actions, users can now interact with and share things on the web in more nuanced ways than liking or posting. The new dynamics between apps, Timeline, Ticker and News Feed means more options for brand exposure on Facebook, but not necessarily in ways brands can control or own. Instead, marketers will need to think beyond their Facebook pages and consider partnership opportunities with other apps, as well as how to build new experiences for the web and mobile devices that last beyond a single campaign.

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 a third-party website or app implements Open Graph actions, that app can automatically generate stories in News Feed, Ticker and Timeline. Another unique feature of Open Graph apps is the monthly and yearly summaries that developers can customize to tell interesting stories about users over time.

A lot of the actions users take in Open Graph apps are going to involve commercial products or entities. People will be able to “watch” movies, “wear” designer items, “drink” beverages and so on. Most of these actions will not be taken within brand-specific apps. Instead they’ll be made via Rotten Tomatoes, Pose, Foodspotting and other third-party platforms. As a result, we may start to see more brands directing people to these apps. For example, a movie page on Facebook could link to the Rotten Tomatoes page after opening weekend and tell fans to rate the movie, knowing this will generate additional impressions among a user’s friends. Brands will also be more likely to partner with apps to offer promotions or be featured in some way now that their reach will be much greater. This is because instead of waiting for users to actively share things on Facebook, Open Graph apps can continuously publish lightweight stories about users’ activity. As a result, formerly niche communities like the aforementioned Pose or Foodspotting could become more viable marketing avenues.

Marketers might be tempted to create their own Open Graph apps, but they will need to think more long term than they previously have with Facebook. Timeline apps provide value through use over time, helping users share part of their identity or learn something about their own habits. These apps are not ideal for one-off promotions. If marketers create them solely to take advantage of “frictionless sharing,” users are likely to recognize them as spam.

Another important point about Open Graph apps is that since they benefit from users taking repeated action, they work well as mobile and web integrations not page tab apps. A few of Facebook’s more than 60 Open Graph partners developed canvas applications, but none were using page tabs. We suspect this is in part because tabs apps are unavailable on mobile and pages could be converted to the Timeline format sometime this year. Marketers should be mindful of how much they invest in page tab apps moving forward and instead consider what kind of Open Graph integration or partnerships would be most relevant for their consumers.

See our breakdown of Open Graph apps by category here.

Image credit: Facebook