What they are and how will they affect the Facebook timeline and marketers?
Facebook launched the highly anticipated “Open Graph” apps last week, announcing new partnerships with 60 app developers, with many more to come. Open Graph apps will enable the Facebook Timeline to track a user’s activity on and offline, with these apps posting on behalf of the user. Companies such as Pinterest, Urbanspoon and Zynga will proactively engage with a user’s timeline, once permission has been granted, and post interactions that the user has had with products, services, news outlets, recipes they’ve tried and more.
This is a huge step forward for Facebook in its goal to make the new Timeline a true record of a user’s life and times. But what does this mean for the average user? Well, other than making it easier for users to share and interact with one another (which can be seen as a positive or a negative, depending on with whom you speak), I’m not sure that this strays much at all from the culture that Facebook has already created.
I remember reading blogs and opinions online months ago when the concept was first announced at the f8 conference of people debating whether or not this was just another way for Facebook to exploit its users and infringe on their privacy. In my opinion, if you are willing to post the most intimate details of your life anywhere on the internet – Facebook page or otherwise – you’re putting any personal privacy under fire. Plus, as with other apps on Facebook, you will need to give permission for these new ones to work with your timeline.
Facebook has been a little shady in the past with its privacy policies and practices, but they are quick to right themselves – even if it does usually take a severe blasting online and in the media before doing so. Users need to be careful. If you’re willing to spend hours of your day on Facebook posting, playing games, chatting and the like, take a few moments every once and a while to pay attention to your privacy settings and you should be fine.
What do Open Graph apps mean for online marketers?
Now going above and beyond the everyday user experience, this does have some possibly major implications for online marketers. Facebook is very aware of the advertising revenue that the site generates each year (over $3.8 billion in 2011, up from $1.86 billion in 2010 according to Emarketer Inc.), and it seems to be constantly looking for new ways its advertisers can better target its users. These Open Graph apps are the latest tool to do that.
Don’t let them fool you. Facebook has positioned itself as the #1 social networking site in the world; however it is also one of the largest advertising outlets as well. The Open Graph apps will allow marketers to present their products and services in front of the eyes of their exact demographics as they’ve been able to do with Facebook’s intricate targeting options. The interactions with these apps will play on the same concept of the popular marketing tool known as Sponsored Stories, providing outlets for advertisers to market to users who “Like” them and their friends (who will hopefully turn in to more of those who “Like”). The difference here is the apps will allow the sponsorship to come more directly from the friend instead of from the brand; theoretically having a more powerful effect and endorsement for people seeing these purchases and interactions.
Communities such as Pinterest that are gaining in popularity can (and will) quickly move from a cult following to a sensation. Not only are these apps great for increasing brand awareness, but with so many inbound links the advertising (and SEO) potential on these sites will increase exponentially.