Timeline Apps Take the Facebook “Like” to the Next Level

The development of Facebook Timeline apps mean you don’t just ‘like’ things anymore…

…you listen, cook, read, run, play, review, want, buy, taste, love and more…

Did you notice? Facebook has come alive with over 60 applications, thanks to the new “Open Graph” function, allowing companies to create “Timeline apps” that are meant to streamline and encourage sharing of activities, interests and accomplishments with your Facebook friends. You may have seen your friends ‘listening’ to Spotify, or ‘reading’ an article with the Washington Post Social Reader…these are all part of Facebook’s dream of social integration.

So What Can it Do?

Rather than only allowing people to ‘like’ content, Open Graph now allows apps to better classify activities based on the actions (verb) they do to an object (noun). As we all know, when a person uses a Facebook app, that action is more than likely displayed on his or her Timeline, News Feed and Ticker. So for example, a cooking site may note that you are ‘cooking’ a ‘recipe’ when you share that recipe…or a news site may note that you ‘read’ an ‘article,’ instead of just ‘liking’ it. If Ritesh Patel shares a recipe, Facebook may show that “Ritesh Patel cooked a batch of chocolate chip cookies.”

What Does it Mean for Me?

The new functionality aims to create a more specific, meaningful connection by allowing people to instantly interact with content, whether it’s listening to the same song on Facebook, via Spotify, or reading the same article, via the Washington Post Social Reader.

But be careful. While Open Graph’s “frictionless sharing” makes things easy, it may also have unintended consequences. Open graph asks users to opt-in to an action/app (i.e., read, watch, listen, join) once and from that point forward, those actions will be published to their newsfeed automatically. So while “frictionless sharing” does integrate seamlessly with the applications you’re using, it also may be posting things to Facebook without you realizing. It’s up to you to go into your settings and turn off the functionality.

What Does it Mean for Clients?

Open Graph and the apps that access it have the potential to change the circumstances under which we recommend clients use Facebook. We used to think that users wouldn’t ‘like’ Viagra, or another drug or sensitive disease state, but now, what if somebody could ‘support’ that same disease or ‘spread the word’ about it? We know that patients and caregivers are passionate when it comes to their health, and many would jump at the opportunity to raise awareness, but not necessarily tell their friends that they have the disease. As Open Graph is opened to the public, we’ll have the opportunity to create any action item we deem fit for a given initiative.

One of the most interesting aspects of Open Graph is the potential exposure to a Facebook audience of nearly 1 billion people without creating a “page.”  While we were able to do that with ‘like’ buttons, installing more specific actions on a campaign website or in an email may encourage or break down barriers to sharing sensitive information. There’s also an opportunity to work with existing companies and leverage popular Open Graph apps that people already trust.

HOWEVER, BE CAUTIOUS. With this new functionality comes the same rules and regulations we always follow. Sharing something to Facebook may have serious repercussions if not handled correctly, so please involve your digital team as early and often as possible.

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