Remember last September when Facebook announced all those changes to individual profiles, including the timeline? One of the changes was that your friends and fans can do more than “Like” or “Comment” on Facebook. Three new actions were announced at the time, including: Read, Watch, Listen to help people better understand what their friends are doing online. Facebook called it the “Open Graph” and the pr people called “A revolution to the whole meaning of listening to music together or family T.V.” You can read more about how it works from the Facebook developer notes.
You can install an app on your Facebook profile that shares an action and it goes out on your newsfeed and is shared with your friends. In the example above, the cooking app lets a Facebook user share what they “cooked” with their friends.
Recently, some apps have been using the OpenGraph in innovate ways. The one that caught my eye was the approach used by Ticketmaster. They are mashing up apps, figuring out what music you listen to on Spotify and offering up tickets that might be of interest. This is both interesting but a little scary to me. I asked folks on my Facebook brand page what they thought. My colleague, Devon Smith, pointed to a cool application called “Art Finder” that helps people discover their friends’ interests in fine arts.
The Open Graph and apps are becoming more and more critical for marketers given the Facebook changes. Here’s a description from Social Media Examiner:
Last year, Facebook rolled out Open Graph, allowing brands to connect to a user’s Facebook social graph. This year, it rolled out significant changes, allowing app developers to create custom actions using any verb and object related to the activity taking place on the app.
These so-called “lightweight” activities can be defined by the app creator and pushed throughout the Facebook experience.
Here are the highlights, and how the actions affect Timeline:
- The Open Graph integrates with the News Feed, Ticker and Timeline, making the app a key part of users’ and their friends’ Facebook experiences.
- As users engage, the custom action appears on Facebook News Feed, and remains on the user’s Timeline; e.g., Jane cooked a recipe from Best Recipes app.
Changes to the structure of permissions allow a user to give permission one timefor an app to post about that user’s activity on the app thereafter.
This is how you’re seeing so many more postings about what your friends are listening to, for example, if they’re using a social sharing music app like Spotify. It even gets its own designated spot in the Timeline and displays a running list of what the user is listening to.
Debra Askanase has a post about Facebook Timeline Apps and profiles three fundraising vendors that have developed timeline apps. Debra says the benefits to nonprofits are:
Timeline apps afford an opportunity for nonprofits to promote causes, activities and mission. I can envision apps that promote online campaigns, encourage people to interact with the organization in a certain way, encourage specific actions, track activity, and/or to raise brand awareness. A few ideas:
- Support the nonprofit: “Jerry supports the Canadian Red Cross”
- Activism: “Debra signed a petition to stop fracking” or “Eliana contacted a brand to ask about its slavery footprint via Slavery Footprint”
- Play a game: “Adam has donated 2,173 grains of rice to the UN to date via Free Rice”
- Donate: “Kylie has started a virtual food drive with Feeding America”
- Support a campaign: “David is growing a mustache for Movember”
In my opinion, I think the greatest Timeline app benefit is in the information the nonprofit will gain about app users, and how committed a supporter is to the cause. Installing an app is a deeper commitment than passively Liking a Page, or joining conversation on a Facebook Page. App users should be the organization’s most committed online supporters.
When an app is installed, the developer knows a supporters’ email address, other Likes, and how the user is engaging with the application. Ultimately, the app both gathers supporter information that isn’t available from people who Like a Page, and spreads awareness about the organization/campaign/cause through the ticker.
I caught up with Matt Mahan from Causes for a quick interview about Causes use of the new timeline apps based on the Facebook Open Graph:
1. Can you explain “Open Graph” for non-geeks and why it isimportant? How would someone at a nonprofit explain to their seniormanagement or board?
Open Graph is a way of connecting any website to Facebook so that people using that website can opt-in to automatically share what they are doing in real time—listening to music, reading articles, shopping, supporting nonprofits, etc.—with their Facebook friends. If this tool becomes standard across the Internet, which I think it will, it will dramatically increase peer-to-peer sharing of social information, making it easier for people to discover what their friends are doing. Nonprofits, especially smaller ones, stand to benefit from these changes because they will reap the equivalent of free advertising as people engage with them online. Because most nonprofits cannot afford significant marketing budgets, their online “mindshare” is low relative to the degree to which people care about them (vis-à-vis companies and other organizations with greater marketing heft). All in all, Open Graph should help nonprofits become a larger part of the mass scale conversation taking place on Facebook every day.
2. How has Causes integrated the Open Graph on Facebook?
Causes.com has hooked into Facebook’s Open Graph with a number of action types that will allow people to publish their social good accomplishments to Timeline and their friends’ news feed. These action types include: join, pledge, answer, sign, give and a range of other actions people can take to help their favorite nonprofits. As people take these actions they will be translated into Timeline stories that expose their friends to great organizations and timely action campaigns.
3. What is the value or benefit to nonprofit users of Causes?
Open Graph is particularly exciting for those of us in the social good space because awareness-raising and advocacy are often core to the work we do. You can listen to a song and enjoy it all by yourself, but social change always requires collective action. Nonprofits and their supporters now have a much more powerful tool for spreading a message, via what is essentially digital-word-of-mouth, quickly and cheaply.
4. What does this look like to potential users?
For potential users the change is minimal. We’ll ask our users to opt in to share the action they are taking on Causes.com with their Facebook friends. We believe that altruism is social and social change requires collective action, but we also respect that not everyone wants to share their cause with others.
5. What do nonprofits need to do in terms of strategy and tactics to make it work for them?
The short answer is, invest in your grassroots organizing capacity. Over the next couple of weeks Causes.com is releasing a number of new “action campaigns”, including pledges, polls, quizzes, petitions and so forth, that will make it easy and free for even the smallest nonprofits and independent activists to publish great action campaigns, track action-taking, and translate loose online support into coordinated action. I think this is a particularly exciting opportunity for organizations that see awareness-raising and advocacy as core objectives in the coming year. We’re one of the only websites in the world to have fully integrated with Open Graph, so we recommend using Causes.com as a campaign hub for engaging various online audiences (Facebook, Twitter, website, email list, Causes) in deeper action-taking.
6. How should they think about measurement of successful strategy?
Overall, the measure of success is how many people you can move to take action and how valuable that action ultimately ends up being for your organization or the population you serve. On Causes.com, our top-level metric of success is the amount of action we help our nonprofit partners generate from their supporters. We trust that those nonprofits are in the best position to determine how to best direct action-taking for real-world impact, whether it’s fundraising, awareness-raising, or advocacy action they are generating. Our goal is to build the world’s best platform for collection action-taking, so we measure (and will soon be able to share with our partners right on their causes) conversion rates from top-down promotion of campaigns via email and Facebook, on-site action-taking, and post-action peer-to-peer sharing, or what is often called “virality”. In a few months, nonprofits will be able to do this kind of measurement right on Causes.com at no cost, and those with larger tech teams will be able to do similar tracking on their own websites. Eventually we plan to power this kind of measurement and data analysis no matter where you run your campaigns.
7. What are the best how-tos, resources for nonprofits to get started on this?
Definitive best practices are still emerging. We put together a quick overview on the Causes blog for our users, focused on what Open Graph means for their Facebook experience: . Our support team here at Causes is happy to answer questions related to our integration with Open Graph
Is your nonprofit or have you seen a nonprofit using the Facebook’s Open Graph in a creative and effective way? What are your questions about leveraging Facebook’s Open Graph?