Understanding Social Graph – Answers to the Questions from #SamosaChats Twitter Chat

 

Last Wednesday we had a great Twitter chat on the topic of Social Graph where many asked our panelist, Mr. Rohan Dighe, questions  using the hashtag # SamosaChats, about Social Graph and how they can best leverage it.

To those who missed the chat, following are the questions that were asked during the chat and Rohan’s his detailed answers.

What is Social Graph? Can you take us through it?

Yes, I will try and simplify it for you. Before jumping on to the subject of Social Graph directly, lets take a step back and understand connections. Each one of us has our own network, people that we interact with (our connections/friends/followers/contacts). If you try and represent these connections on paper by placing them randomly and then joining them by lines representing the relation, you will get is an interconnected graph.

So, your connections form a graph. Now, most of these connections are a part of some social network, lets take Facebook as an example. Since people are involved, its “social” in nature and “graph” represents the interconnections, hence “Social Graph”

Ok, now that you have understood the concept, lets take a look at the Official Definition

At Facebook’s core is the social graph; people and the connections they have, to everything they care about.

From a business perspective, who can use Social Graph?

Well, we are moving towards an era where “the default is social”. Major industries are being rethought with people in mind. So, as I understand this – we are moving towards the era of “personalization” where the important ingredients are friends/connections/objects we care about, being used to deliver a personalized experience.

From a business perspective it definitely makes sense to be integrated with the Social Graph, the core idea has always been to deliver a more personalized appeal. We have seen brands/companies over the ages going out of their way to re-think all aspects of business just to make the customers feel special. I personally feel personalization (use of social graph) is the obvious next step!

Well honestly, anyone who cares about delivering a good experience, a more social experience can and should make use of Social Graph.

Can a non-coder/developer benefit from Social Graph? If yes, how?

Yes, absolutely. Well, Facebook has been trying to make social graph integrations easy for website owners and released something called Social Plugins (the ‘Like Button’ as we all know it, is a Social Plugin)

More here developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/

Integrating Social Plugins into your website is as simple as copy pasting few lines of code.

The whole idea of these plugins is to make your web page more social, so if you are a blog then you can use the plugin to show (which of user’s friends have read this blog post). If you are someone like IMDB then you would be able to implement things like (which of my friends have seen this movie?) or simple things like Activity Feed Plugin which will just show you what website’s content is being shared on Facebook.

My personal favourite is the use of Facepile which shows which of your friends are connected to this product/service. The idea is really simple – If I know 3 of my friends have been here/used the product then its more easy for me to relate to it, “friends trust friends” and seeing your friends photo will just increase your inclination towards using it.

As a small business owner, how will Social Graph help me promote my business?

Well, there are 2 aspects to this. A Do-it-yourself model (via usage of Social Plugins) and a developer way!

Lets say you are a Cafe owner and you have your own website/facebook page. You have a detail page about each coffee/tea that you serve. You can include a simple like button on the page that delivers (which of user’s friends like this Mocha). Like button by default publishes an action on Facebook saying “XYZ likes Mocha at Store ABC” which is broadcasted to all your friends.

Ask people to come to the website (by publishing an update to your wall, etc) and tell you which coffee they like. Simple! You are all set for a small but your first step in making use of Social Graph.

A more complex use case (developer needed) would be to use “Facebook Connect” – Facebook Login for your Website/blog and serve personalized recommendations.

So, you could have a communication somewhere saying “Why don’t your try Orange Tea? Ankita, Rohan and 5 others recommend it”. What you are doing here is using Tea (the object) + People (Ankita, Rohan) to serve a personalized call to action!

There are many more things you can do but all you need to understand is combine people with actions/objects of your business.

Does Social Graph and Analytics converge at some point?

Well, yes they do converge but the point here is to understand that analytics is about measurement and analyzing. Social Graph is about people people. So, if you talk about Brand Growth because of Social Graph, Increase in Followers, Increase in Consumption of Content, etc all these metrics are measurable.

So, its not actually convergence but more about tracking growth!

Are there any privacy concerns regarding Social Graph?

Well, whenever a user interacts with Social Graph, the user has to allow permissions (use of email, use of friends, basic profile information etc) when you login to the application. In most cases 60% of the users allow it (intentionally or non-intentionally) but that’s the %age.

So, once the permission is got from the user then you are allowed to use the data. Facebook mentions its Platform Policies and Guidelines here developers.facebook.com/policy/

Check the section of (Storing and Using Data You Receive From Us) for more information in the above link. Apart from the above you should set your own privacy policies and define clearly to the user what you are going to do with the data.

Do you think privacy and ownership of information of an individual can diminish the idea of social graphs?

Oh well, without content and people Social Graphs actually would have no meaning. If you take away the objects,connections and all your data then you are in a way choosing to be anti-social. So, without sharing, social graphs won’t be built. I think we as humans have the tendency to share. The data that we create is owned by us and each one of us definitely has a way to adjust privacy options to his/her own fit or just control what or how much you share.

What is Open Graph? How is it different from Social Graph?

So, Social Graph as described above (a combination of connections+objects that you care about). Open Graph is coined by Facebook as a way to include third-party websites and pages that people liked throughout the web, earlier, Social Graph was just limited to Facebook, with open graph they have extended it to the web.

What is does is really simple. Its the first step towards a more semantic web. Earlier web pages were just connected via hyperlinks, they contained a set of keywords. No one knew what a particular page on the web was about? Like an IMDB page for Inception was just a page, but after open graph you could say ok the page Inception is of type Movie. It has Actor as Di Caprio and stuff like that. Its about defining Page (the object).

People started adopting to the standard, after that Facebook could understand what the page was about. Lets say if you included certain tags in your html, Facebook could convert them to necessary actions. Like say if you ‘liked’ a movie on IMDB, Facebook could actually add them to Movies under your profile. Similary with books, authors and practically anything on the web.

The first version of Open Graph included the ‘action’ like, so you could just like a movie, like a book, like a place. Etc.

Facebook also launched Open Graph II which extends the specification so now you can say “read a book”, “visited a place”, “saw a movie”. They added “verbs” (like, read, visited) and objects were (movie, place, book, etc)

Although, all this might be a bit technical, everything works by just specifiying META tags on your page, its very developer friendly to include them.

What is the best way to track Open Graph activity across all platforms?

Open Graph is Facebook specific. Once you include the Meta Tags which define the verbs and actions you can start publishing them to Facebook.

The actions show up in the Ticker, Aggregated News Feed Stories, Feed. Each of them cause network effects (more visibility, more impressions, etc). You get detailed analytics and reports in the Open Graph section of your Facebook Application.

Is there any way to increase the reach of an Open Graph App?

Yes, accurate use of the specification and tying in proper actions can have a huge impact on virality. Publishing stories from your web application to Facebook can cause a good 3x+ increase in your traffic and impressions.

Example: Lets say you run a site like saavn.com, you should publish stories when someone listens to a song, favourites a song, creates a playlist, and possibly any other action that you desire. Just imagine this as against to just a simple share that the user “might” do! Its definitely valuable.

How does one monetize an app based upon Open Graph?

Well, as such Open Graph Applications are regular apps, there is technically not much difference apart from the extra shares that you can do to facebook. So, your monetization strategy should be directly linked to impressions, in app branding/advertising etc.

Open Graph will just get you additional traffic/signups.

Can you share in detail the examples of brands and websites who are using Social Graph?

Well, saavn.com is the first one that comes to my mind. Much like Spotify, Saavn has been heavily profiting from Facebook’s Open Graph; the company has signed up more than two million Facebook users since partnering with the social network in December. (Reported by: GigaOM)

Well, then Washington Post Reader, Yahoo Reader are some very common examples of awesome Open Graph Based Products.

Can you direct us to any good case studies on the use of Open/Social Graph which helped a brand’s community building efforts and ROI?

There are a lot of international examples and the best one is fab.com which is my favourite. You can find more information here.

I would recommend having a look at developers.facebook.com/showcase/apps/ it basically lists all the awesome apps that use Open Graph and more.

Hope you all have a better understanding of Social Graph now. Don’t forget to be there for our next Twitter Chat tomorrow on How To Use Facebook Custom Tabs.

 
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