Facebook Open Graph and Online Marketing

Posted by Dan White on May 19th 2010 in E-Commerce, Social Media, SEO, News, Online Marketing

One of our online marketing team, Daniel Cave, was recently asked:
"Facebook Open Graph is pretty cool stuff when you think about it. Is the future of E-commerce online marketing about to change dramatically?"
That question covered such an interesting topic we have edited his response and posted it here for your pleasure.

The most transformative thing facebook has ever done for the web.

When you think about Open Graph and the wealth of information it provides about users, the potential is HUGE for marketing and e-commerce exploitation, the only issue is setup costs and lead times. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may not have been overstaing the fact when he said that this is the most transformative thing facebook has ever done for the web. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Using Facebook Open Graph for marketing is a potentially very powerful tool. Anything that gives you an insight into your potential customer’s likes and wants is powerful indeed. Add to that the fact that it also allows you to leverage social proof on your customers to sell your products then it is a powerful tool for site personalization and customization indeed. If you have one of your developers learn how Open Graph works and start to do some basic stuff with it then you will be making a good start at moving towards using this potential. Doing something easy like putting like buttons in place along with trying to match featured items with their likes on a fuzzy search, publishing to people’s wall with permission would be bordering on free advertising that rivals and beats paid for advertising. It is hard to judge how much of this is hype and how much is really useful, but I personally think if Facebooks ‘vision’ of the web comes to life (without being killed off by privacy issues) then it will become a big factor in marketing and Site Design.

So, is Ecommerce about to change dramatically?

Maybe, but only if the Facebook Open Graph takes off in a big way (which I think it will) and is adopted across the mainstream web. I think the end effect on sites will be subtle but important. You will start seeing sites extending beyond their own borders and reaching into social to both take information and to post some back too. Borrowing information about users preferences and using them to personalize sites and offer more relevant offers. Using people’s friends against them as marketing tool is a very slick and clever way to market to them. After all how often do you buy something when you know a friend has bought it, and how often will you place more trust in a site that someone else has already used? That’s not to mention the “keeping up with the jones” effect.

Interesting questions to consider:

Contemplating the future of Open Graph in the context of social media and the wider web brings up almost unending list of ideas/possibilities and exciting potentials. Some of my initial thoughts were:

Could a process which cross references social networks work?

Think about it. If a person’s twitter account and Facebook page can be matched and cross referenced publicly then targeted tweets/follows/offers can be done. Imagine this tweet:
“Facebook says you like holidaying and you’ve been tweeting about Spanish hotels. We hope you like this website:
How about:
Click Here to See people on twitter who have similar backpacking travel ambitions and check out their travel photos on twitpic at the same time"

How will site personalisation be treated by Search Engines?

Will they take notice of how many ‘likes’ a site gets? Will ‘likes’ the new links for SEO? Will personaized content be penialised by google as cloaking? The very short answer is No, but it is an interesting prospect to consider.

What happens to your site when Facebook has downtime?

Will your site break if you have implemented too many Open Graph features and facebook suffers downtime?

Important things to remember:

Don’t get caught up and design your e-commerce site just for Facebook. A lot of people are slow to change and even dislike it, just look what happens every time Facebook changes its layout (millions of people protest, and then reluctantly accept it). Conventions which work now will still work tomorrow and not everyone in the world is on Facebook so make Facebook integration part of the website not the core of it. A well designed site which is optimised to convert visitors into customers will always do well regardless of Facebook, but the same site with Subtle Facebook integration will possibly do even better.


Yes Facebook Open Graph can, and likely will, have an impact on the web but it will not be a radical overnight change and will most likely be a subtle change used to quietly influence users to buy as part of an overall web marketing strategy. Start small with it and slowly introduce it into your sites while it picks up popularity and you will be well placed to use the more advanced features of it when the time is right
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