At yesterday's PayPal Innovate conference in San Francisco, EBay and Facebook announced a partnership to integrate Open Graph into EBay's commerce platforms X.commerce, Magnto and GSI. Merchants already have the ability to set-up shop on Facebook and sell directly to people who Like their pages, but that feature - like many other social commerce ideas on Facebook - never did take off. Facebook's EBay integration might be the tipping point for social commerce - not only will merchants be able to integrate new "want" and "own" buttons, but advertisers will soon be able to target users based on their Open Graph activity.
With the new EBay Facebook integration, Facebook will be able to quietly gather data on e-commerce without having actually handle transactions. In doing so, Facebook doesn't have to announce this as yet another attempt to jump into the e-commerce market; instead, they will work behind the scenes with users who already trust the network and continue pumping information into it.
What this Means for Advertisers
Advertisers will have access to Facebook's Open Graph, meaning that advertisements will be far more targeted. If a user says they love basketball, a sporting goods store could target ads to that user. Currently advertisers can only target users based on the Pages they Like - and we all know that the act of clicking "Like" doesn't mean very much at all.
Plus, shopping is inherently social, said Facebook's Director of Platform and Mobile Marketing Katie Mitic:
"Integrating Facebook Open Graph technology across EBay's global commerce platforms represents a powerful way to bring people together across an inherently social activity - shopping."
But just because an activity is inherently social, it doesn't mean that people want to do it together online. Or does it?
Facebook's Previous Social Failures
This is not the first time Facebook has jumped into the commerce space. Just last year, Delta Airlines launched a Facebook "ticket window," which many thought would be the future of e-commerce. Instead, people continued buying tickets from the airline's website, or through deal-finding services like Kayak.com. This proved to be a non-social activity - or, at least, Facebook hasn't found a way to make it social online. When it came to social search, Bing tried highlighting pages that user's Facebook friends "liked." This feature did not take off. Facebook's attempt at challenging Groupon through social deals closed after four months later, and Facebook's Time Warner Facebook app for movie streaming also went down as a failed social activity.
Will EBay's Facebook Presence Change the Social Commerce Game?
Facebook has a history of conflating the social graph with the interest graph, and the new EBay integration might fall prey to that very problem.
The social graph charts "who I know" while the interest graph shows "what I like," and the two don't necessarily mix. For example, what if you're a die-hard Jean-Luc Godard film fan but your closest friends dislike French film? Or what if you have a friend that loves baking bread at home while you prefer dining out at gluten-free restaurants? You won't necessarily start disliking Jean-Luc Godard films and loving bread just because that's how your friends feel.
The social graph and the interest graph may overlap completely in a few key friendships with a best friend, or someone who you jokingly claim you "share the same mindscape" with. These are the relationships that Facebook is really looking for. The question is, will there be enough data available for the behemoth social network to actually find them? Or will it lean heavily on recommendations being shared between friends on social networks?