The Facebook API: A Social Graph of What People Care About

Imagine that Facebook is as a graphical representation of connections between people, photos, liking, sharing, commenting, shopping and the interrelatedness between them and their friend and family relationships liking, sharing, commenting, and shopping. If you took a picture of each of those things and pasted it on a piece of poster board, you’d have visual representation of that person’s life and what’s important to them as well as poster boards of their friends and families and what is important to each of them as well as the overlaps in interests. This is called a “social graph.”
Facebook offers businesses a way to connect to that information via an API. An API is an acronym for application programming interface. Instead of having to write a bunch of complicated code to connect to the data, you just have to connect to the API. The API provides a much simpler way to access the information.
The Facebook Open Graph API allows you to easily access all public information about a person. This means that it can retrieve the Likes and interests of your customers, and your customer’s Facebook connections. And thus the social graph data provides marketers new ways to understand a customer’s preferences, passions and connections and by doing so allows a brand to create a personalized experience with each and every customer.
For instance, a customer might live in Los Angeles, listen to Sting, work at Citibank, ride bikes along the Santa Monica Pier, eat at the Cheesecake Factory in Marina Del Rey as well as connect with their network of friends and family. With the Facebook Open Graph API, brands can make personalized offers to that individual based on the information about he or she has shared on their page.
Deals that might interest this customer are mortgages or refinancing information from Citibank, coupons for free drinks at Cheesecake factory, a sale on bikes or bike accessories and a special appearance by Sting on the Santa Monica Pier. With contextualized data like this, brands can customize their marketing campaigns based on the information customers’ share about themselves.
Another example is that a brand might show the upcoming birthdays of Facebook Friends as well as their gift Wish List. How would a brand populate this list? The brand can access that friend’s profile data, which might include favorite a list of their favorite electronics, clothes, food and music as gift suggestions. Normally, it would have to create a system that would ask the customer directly about their favorite items, then get permission to use this information. The Social Plug-ins, mentioned earlier in this chapter, allow a brand to build the social graph by seeing what the customer “Liked” on Facebook. That is assuming the customer opts to share this information publicly among their own individual group of friends. Brands seeking to use this information would need to ask the Facebook member to share this information with them as well.
The downfall to getting data is the individual Facebook privacy setting. Each Facebook page’s privacy settings are handled and decided upon by the customer who owns the page. Customers are asked to provide permission to allow their page to be seen by the brand. This determines who can see what. There are alternatives to these obstacles, i.e. using apps within Facebook.
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