Respecting Users and Leveraging OpenGraph Apps

This week Facebook continued the rollout of its OpenGraph Timeline integration by announcing that it will approve more apps that leverage the integration. At launch apps from Hulu, The Washington Post, Yahoo and others were included.

Now, they’re being joined by the likes of Rotten Tomatoes, Airbnb, Ticketmaster, Pinterest, Ford, Polyvore, LivingSocial, Foodspotting, Yummly, StubHub, RunKeeper and others. In fact, more than 60 apps went live this past week. And any brand or property can create an app of their own.

This is the next evolution of Facebook’s upgrade to OpenGraph as announced at 2011’s f8 conference in September.

A Very Active Timeline

Facebook apps are about creating “frictionless sharing.” Users give the app permission to post to their Timelines once and know the app won’t ask permission again. It will continue to post to their Timelines until permission is revoked in their user settings.

Most of these updates will appear in the Ticker, the update box to the right of the News Feed that features less important information, such as the songs your friends are listening to on Spotify or MOG.

The best part about Facebook’s announcement is the introduction of Gestures. Now users don’t just “like” content. Their interactions will be custom to what is actually taking place. For example, if I’m interacting with the Pinterest app, I’ll “pin” something, instead of “like” it. I will “run” with RunKeeper and so on.

The move makes sharing on Facebook more dynamic than before, and marketers can leverage Gestures in a way that’s relevant to their brands.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Facebook’s announcement presents a big opportunity for marketers to create deeper connections with customers by creating reasons to share and create, while leveraging a deeper set of data than has been available until now.

That doesn’t mean it’s time to get out there, find a developer and start building an app. They require a big investment of time and money, and they’re a bit of gamble in whether or not they’ll take off.

Before getting in marketers need to consider:

Be About the User Not the Brand. Users are on Facebook to connect with each other, not brands. The app experience should create something that users 1.) want to share with others and 2.) want to hear about from others. People won’t care if you booked a trip with Delta airlines. They will care about where you’re going and who you’re going with. That’s information people will want to communicate with their friends.

Ask yourself if the final execution is something that's worth sharing with Facebook friends. What will they get out of it?

Be a Social Utility. An app needs to provide value to users. They can provide information, make a task easier or provide entertainment. Brands need to create experiences people will use time and time again. If they don’t, the significant investment in creating the app may not be worth it.

Be Trustworthy. Consumers think about what information they share and what information they don’t. An app that abuses this access to information will not only hurt the credibility of the brand in consumers’ eyes but the credibility of providing information overall. Burn them once, and a potentially valuable marketing tactic goes out the window. Only access what you need, nothing extra.

We’re only seeing the beginning of what Facebook has in store for OpenGraph from both a marketing and user perspective. Whether a brand chooses to create an app or not, all brands are likely to benefit from the increased sharing and data Facebook will continue to inspire.