Brands are increasingly abandoning efforts to get users to “like” their Facebook pages and instead focusing their marketing efforts on Open Graph, the protocol Facebook uses to reflect third-party app use in a user's social activity.
Facebook has made a series of revisions to Open Graph since it was introduced in 2010; most recently, it extended the concept to include arbitrary actions and make Open Graph actions more prominent on a user's timeline. Meanwhile, a recent study found that 42% of Internet URLs use Open Graph, and the search term “Open Graph” has been gaining traction on Google Trends.
“There is a huge reason to go that route over trying to drive people to like your Facebook page,” said Josh Grossman of digital coupon firm SavingStar, which is in the process of implementing Open Graph on its website. “When a user likes your [Facebook] page, that posts through their newsfeed only one time. With Open Graph, potentially every action users take is posted to Facebook, increasing your chances of getting return traffic exponentially.”
At Pandemic Labs, a Boston-based social media agency, vice president Clint Fralick said it's easier for brands to rack up “likes” for their Facebook page, but added that using that strategy has “questionable” long-term value.
Open Graph “gives you a lot more options. Even if you require minimal permissions, Open Graph lets you customize visitors' experience on-site and set up multiple ways they can publish their activity on your site to Facebook,” Fralick said. “In terms of traffic-generating potential, the difference is simple: You can set up a simple user flow with Open Graph that has 3-4 publishing points (when they add the app, when they find a favorite product, when they buy, etc.), and you can repeat parts of that sequence every time someone visits. The one story you get from a regular Page Like doesn't compare.”
There are, of course, complaints, as is typical when discussing Facebook. The widespread use of Open Graph gives Facebook a much wider presence on the Internet, even after users have logged out of the site. And Open Graph is optimized for Facebook’s efforts to collect click signals, meaning it may not be ideal for all content publishers.
Embedly co-founder and CEO Sean Creeley, who came up with the 42% number, responded to a Quora question about how Open Graph changes have impacted the ability to collect data. "You need to look at it from a publisher's side rather than a scraping side...It's perfect for Facebook's use of the data, but for general purpose it's very limiting,” Creeley wrote. “The web is getting bigger; images, videos and descriptions. Could Flipboard or Pinterest solely use Open Graph? No, not really.”