Igniting the Social Graph: How to Create More Meaningful Brand Experiences

Facebook now has more than 800 million users sharing over 4 billion pieces of content daily. And that number just keeps growing and growing. It’s no longer a question of whether people are on Facebook or how many connections they have; we know they are there and they use it. The challenge for marketers now is how we leverage on all the available information – the consumer’s likes, tastes and connections to communicate and create meaningful brand experiences.

The term ‘social graph‘ first coined by Mark Zuckerberg, refers to the digital map of your Facebook identity, connections, and the things shared between them. The term has since expanded to include other social platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare to name a few. In a way, every individual has multiple, overlapping social graphs that can be used in combination to provide very personal, relevant, and contextual information to brand marketers.

Each Facebook user has an average of 130 friends and there are more than 900 million objects that they interact with including pages, groups, events, and community pages. In addition, there are the multitude of Facebook Like buttons used on almost every other website. Imagine the amount of consumer data that can be gleaned; their interests and connections within a social context that would bring a whole new relevance to the discipline of targeted marketing.

Brands have already started using the social graph in various interesting ways, to create immersive and highly customised experience for consumers. Advertising has always been about making the brand experience inclusive, personal and meaningful and the best way to do that than have the consumer be part of the story.

These experiences range from beautiful visualisations like Intel’s Museum of Me and DHL’s Social Memories to customised experiences like Mercedes Benz’s Signature Drive and Lacoste Live all which use your social assets (via Facebook Connect) such as your pictures, likes, friends’ information, status updates, and more to create an inclusive, engaging and personalised brand story.

Taking it a step further to provide relevant offers to customers, Amex’s Link, Like, Love links your credit card to your Facebook account and uses you and your friend’s ‘likes’ on the web to make deal recommendations.

The social graph can also be tightly weaved into websites which will give it an instant makeover; bringing a personal context found in social networks into a website, incorporating relationships, connections and interest and adding an instant sheen of meaning and context. Some notable sites that have successfully incorporated this include Tripadvisor, Groupon and the pioneer Levi’s Friends Store.

This same personalisation can also apply to other social platforms beyond Facebook. Leveraging on the available social APIs, brands are able to create interesting experiences such as Adidas Shooter (Twitter), Volkswagon Linkeduit (Linkedin), and even a great Foursquare hack, My Next Trip that gives you a two-day itinerary to any city based on user tips and recommendations on Foursquare.

Adidas shooter

The social graph can also be used across a combination of platforms to create interesting web and mobile experiences. Some interesting startups include Sonar, a mobile app that takes data layers from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn to recommend the people around your vicinity who are relevant to you. It gives you the ability to connect with people in a social or business setting by pre-qualifying the people around you in the room and making the relevant recommendations based on how you are connected. Then there’s also Cliq, a web-based business and services search based on what your friends and connections have shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare.

One of the downsides of such open protocols is the worry for user privacy. As such is the irony of this recent viral hit – Take this Lollipop, which uses your Facebook social graph to create a creepy video of a disturbed man obsessively stalking you and your friends via Facebook.

Take This Lollipop

Brands have not yet fully utilised on the opportunities available to create a closer and more meaningful bond with consumers. With the introduction of the Facebook Open Graph, this will create even more optimum opportunities for marketers to target, engage, and connect with consumers.

For those thinking about leveraging on the social graph, here are three steps on how you could go about doing this:

1. Think about how you want to engage digitally How can this be in line with your brand purpose and point of view in the digital space? How would you like consumers to engage and participate?

Albeit interesting, these digital experiences could range from frivolous visualisations like the Twitter Parade to a full-scale digital immersion that uses the experience to tightly complement, communicate, and engage in the brand promise. A great example is State Farm’s Create A State of Chaos, which uses imaging from Google’s Street View to create a personalised rampage of destruction on your own home (or any other address). This resonates with State Farm’s brand promise that whatever unexpected happens to you, it has you covered.

2. Research: Identify the types of social data and APIs available Don’t just look at one specific platform; Think about leveraging data from a variety of different social platforms and how they can be used in combination to create deeper and more meaningful experiences. Here’s a start.

3. Be Practical Great ideas often fail at execution. This is a functional piece at heart so it is essential to ensure that it is technically feasible while remaining true to the creative idea. Ensure a tightly coordinated effort with clear objectives between the client and agency and that the proposed mechanics do not go against any regulations on the respective social platforms.

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