This is the first in a three-post series examining recent Facebook changes and their impact on digital marketing.
Facebook again made news this week with the announcements that its advertising platform will be further expanded, and that all brand pages will be converted to timeline format by the end of the month. Some pieces of these announcements were clearly intended to mitigate concerns over Facebook’s revenue model ahead of its IPO coming later in the year. But all those announcements were significant to digital marketers.
This most recent wave of news is further evidence of the impact that Facebook has had, and will continue to have, on brand communications. It stands alone as a platform in its ability to reshape how brands connect and engage with consumers. This power is wielded primarily across three key areas of its experience: apps, ads, and pages.
Today’s post will explore implications of Facebook’s new Open Graph Apps.
Welcome to the world of Open Graph Apps
Open Graph Apps allow application developers to integrate their apps deep into the core Facebook experience. To date, users have expressed their preferences and affinities with brands and objects by “liking” Pages and status updates. Now, brands can allow for many more types of fan/user expressions through Open Graph Apps.
For example, users can now “listen” to music on Spotify or “watch” movies on Netflix. There’s a much clearer context and intent expressed through these types of interactions.
The first question to ask, then is, “were ‘Likes’ not sufficient?” Or asked another way, “Why would brands expend the energy to create applications with these types of custom expressions?”
The most obvious answer is user engagement. By empowering users to interface with brands in new, more relevant and appealing ways, companies can further endear their fan bases (perhaps even attracting entirely new fans into the experience). The next reason is viral distribution. Enhanced relevance means more frequent mentions across Facebook’s key areas of distribution: Timeline, News Feed and Ticker, in particular.
But the most interesting outcome to the introduction of Open Graph Apps is one that I’ve been thinking about for a while. In December of last year, Gord Hotchkiss wrote a fantastic column, contrasting search and social marketing channels. In that column, he opined: “For marketers, I suspect, the very ease of search has caused it to be considered a limited opportunity. Social, on the other hand, seems virtually limitless. It expands into hundreds and thousands of fascinating, if somewhat cloudy, opportunities to connect with customers. As I said, in theory, social seems like a marketer’s dream come true. But in practice, it’s an unwieldy animal to wrestle to the ground.”
The point Hotchkiss made in that piece was that social media channels, for all the promise they represent, lack users’ clearly stated intentions. Because I’m a fan of something doesn’t mean I’m in the market to buy anything.
Among the follow-up comments to that article were some of my own thoughts. I wondered out loud whether Facebook’s addition of expressions beyond the “Like” would one day bring that clear intent to the social graph. With the recent introduction of Open Graph Apps, marketers finally appear to have access to that additional context.
That additional context can have a very profound impact on how content, brand Pages and Applications are distributed and discovered – most notably via enhanced ad targeting possibilities (my topic for next week).
While Open Graph Apps don’t quite deliver the threecount, it’s exciting to know that we now have some basic tools to wrestle the animal to the ground.