Opening the Facebook Open Graph Mailbag

Originally published in MediaPost; image courtesy of Facebook

 Open-graph

Opening the Facebook Open Graph Mailbag

Congrats, Facebook. You've made every media pundit sound like the female leads in "Clueless," forcing us to use the word "like" every fourth word: "So, like, now you can like every webpage, and then like it on Facebook, and then like Facebook pages, and you can like what your friends like, and it's, like, awesome."

A lot of questions have been coming up about Facebook's updates from last week, and this is a great forum to answer them. I want to thank some Twitter friends (who were, ironically, more responsive than my Facebook friends) for contributing some questions that are answered to varying degrees below: Kevin Planovsky, Ellis Reid, Joey Redmond, and Gavin Thomas. Let's open up the mailbag.

Can you sum up the debate on Facebook's openness?

Sure. Pundits are taking sides on how "open" Facebook is at its influence spreads across the web. The debate's fairly silly, as it only exists because Facebook named its new protocol the Open Graph. If Facebook called it the Facebook Graph or the We Control the Web and You Don't Graph, the whole debate would be moot, and we'd still be debating about whether Chatroulette is better for porn or marketing.

Open Graph allows any website to have the same functionality of a Facebook page, minus the tabs that no one uses. For instance, Pandora will show you the artists and customized radio stations your Facebook friends are listening to. There are a lot of winners here — Pandora, its users, and Facebook — but this remains a closed environment. Facebook's in control.

There are genuine attempts to make the web more open, such as with OpenLike. The idea is that no one service will own the sharing and rating data; it will be available to all who take part. It's too soon to tell how well these open protocols will work and if they'll get any traction.

Should I get Facebook's Insights for Your Domain on my site?

Probably. At facebook.com/insights, there's a green box on the upper right called "Insights for Your Domain." Facebook will give you a line of code to add to your site, and you can connect this to any of the Facebook pages you own. This will specifically show you information on Facebook users who visit your site and share content back on Facebook. Data available includes: daily likes, daily shares, feedback per share, reshare rate, most shared links, gender, age, country, city, and language.

Most marketers and site owners probably aren't tracking this information, and you can compare Facebook's data to what you already track. You can also get a better sense of how the audience of your Facebook page compares with the Facebook users who visit your site.

How much should I care about privacy?

A lot. Let's go back to the Pandora example. My Facebook friends may be okay with me knowing their musical interests; after all, most friends list their interests in their profile. But my friend who says she likes Phish and the Black Eyed Peas on Facebook may not want to broadcast that she's listening to the Spice Girls on Pandora. Actually, I found a friend listening to the Spice Girls on Pandora, and she's not even showing me her musical preferences on Facebook, nor is she a declared fan (or connection) of any musical artist. I'd imagine she'd prefer to remain anonymous here, and I'll leave her name out of it because she didn't opt in. Facebook and Pandora are not giving her the same courtesy.

If you're implementing Open Graph or any of Facebook's social plugins, keep the consumer perspective in mind. Some of the consumers who care the most may never realize what you're revealing, and they may never figure out how to adjust their privacy settings on Facebook. They're the ones whose perspectives you'll have to keep in mind.

Is search dead? Namely, is Google dead?

No. First of all, marketers will always want to reach consumers explicitly seeking their products and services. As long as marketers are appropriately measuring its value and budgeting accordingly, search engine marketing will continue to thrive.

Much bigger advertising and marketing budgets are spent trying to reach consumers who aren't explicitly saying what they want. Google has a stake here too, thanks in large part to acquisitions such as DoubleClick, YouTube, and Pyra Labs (Blogger). Consumers tend to be targeted demographically, contextually, or behaviorally, but there's an emerging field targeting consumers based on their social graphs, or whom they're connected to.

We're just starting to learn the value of social graph ad targeting. There are a number of companies pushing this emerging field forward, including 33 Across, Lotame, Media 6 Degrees, and Socialmedia.com. If Facebook turns the Open Graph into an ad model, it will instantly be the biggest player in the space, but the web and the social web are far bigger than Facebook.

I'm worried about how much information I'm sharing. How do I change my privacy settings on Facebook?

I'll spare reiterating all the details, since GigaOm and Mashable both did this so well. The short version is that while logged in to Facebook, click Account in the upper right corner and then go to Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites > Instant Personalization and uncheck the box. You'll want to visit those other links for more information.

What if I have more questions, or answers?

Share them in the comments and we'll keep the conversation going.

6 thoughts on “Opening the Facebook Open Graph Mailbag

  1. I'm sure it depends on the site, and I also know you're not alone in that experience of getting freaked out. I've become partial to them, 'liking' quite a few things around the web, but most people don't have to read facebook's privacy policies for a living. 🙂

  2. The first time I clicked a Like button, My profile picture showed up on the page. That freaked me out a bit. I have since modified my privacy settings, but have not since clicked a like button. Nor have I implemented it on our site. I figured if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t want to pester others with it either.

  3. Great post. The interesting part, to me, is whether or not this means the end of Google. I doubt it, especially considering Facebook’s inability to accurately display relevant search results. It still has some tweaking; after that, look out. Facebook is convenient, in the sense that it’s a one-stop, all-in-one solution, in which you can direct message, update, search, chat, etc. Google has tried to perfect different platforms, namely Buzz, to connect to its wide audience. But most attempts have come up short.

  4. Facebook spends a lot of time promoting and justifying lack of privacy; I wonder if they’ll ever set up a way for us to maintain private personal profiles, or to have conversations that are actually not meant to be searched or broadcast…? -Aaron Sylvan, CEO TrustWorks.com

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