How to successfully implement Facebook’s Open Graph to generate insights and start contacting fans

What is Facebook’s Open Graph

The Open Graph is an open protocol for semantically labelling web content, but more importantly it provides the underlying logic for seamless integration into Facebook’s social graph. Each configured URL becomes an object in the graph with various properties, like a title, author, image, URL, etc. People can be linked to objects through things like the Facebook like buttons (i.e. Johnny likes Datalicious). These relationships are then formatted nicely in Facebook news feeds and profiles to provide a means of virally sharing web site content. They also serve as semantic signatures, which can help search engines deliver more personable results.

Open-graph
Why would you bother implementing the tags?

There are many advantages to adding and configuring these tags properly. The key reasons are as follows:
  • Social relevance and influence is now officially part of Google/Bing search engine algorithms, so if you’re into SEO and you’re not looking at the Open Graph, then you’re destined for rough times ahead. The “like” button is acting as a form of popularity score, much like Google’s innovative PageRank, but each “like” is linked to a persons profile, allowing it to be authenticated and weighted accordingly.
  • Objects in the Open Graph drive traffic as they appear in news feeds and profile streams. For many sites this traffic is now greater than traffic from search engines. Without Open Graph tags and social widgets, you ARE losing potential traffic.
  • Properly formatted objects allow you to determine how the object will look in peoples profiles and searches. You can set the picture, title, description and many other important tags. This allows you to optimise your image.
  • Probably the most underutilised capability is the ability to contact users who have clicked like on your object. Effectively each like is functionally equivalent to subscribing to an email list, except it doesn’t cost to send messages into users news feeds. Every “like” has a $ value, tapping into this new communication tool can be an extremely valuable exercise.
  • Objects in the graph are searchable in many other applications and likely will become a greater part of Facebook’s built in search engine.
How to begin Implementing

There are several key pages on Facebook that explain the installation (see below), but don’t believe everything you read, some of it is wrong (ironically eventually this post itself will likely be wrong). And to make matters more difficult, Open Graph tags do not create an object in the graph immediately (it takes time, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot!). The other thing that seems to influence the creation of the object is whether people have “liked” it, this appears to be important (although how many likes are required is also not clear).

Once you have worked through the creation of the meta tags on the site and they’re testing ok (see the Linter below), you should be on track to start accumulating likes and generating traffic. To make use of the traffic you need to associate yourself as an administrator of the objects, to do this skip to the next section.

Resources
Facebook’s Open Graph Developer Page
The Open Graph Protocol Page
The Facebook Linter – use this to check if things are working ok
Good blog article on how to get your web sites into your Facebook Insights

Sending messages into Users feeds

To do this you firstly need to make sure the URL has an object ID in the graph and secondly you must be an administrator of the object. To check the URL is indeed an object, go to the following address in your browser, but replace http://www.datalicious.com with the URL you want to check:

You want it to return something like the below (note the highlighted part means the object has an ID). Note: When you do this for thousands of URL’s you won’t do this manually, but initially it’s a quick way to troubleshoot before attempting to post messages!

"http://www.datalicious.com/": { "id": "116002505130390", "name": "Datalicious | Data > Insights > Action", "picture": "http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/hs463.snc4/50260_116002505130390_7413361_s.jpg", "link": "http://www.datalicious.com/", "category": "Website", "website": "http://www.datalicious.com/", "description": "Smart data driven marketing. Actively helping companies to optimise their marketing programs by providing accessible reports and actionable insights generated from solid data platforms.", "likes": 4 } 

Once you’ve confirmed your URL has an ID, you need to make sure you’re an administrator of the object. This is usually easy to see, as next to a Facebook “like” or “recommend” widget you will see an “admin” button like below:

Screen_shot_2011-01-19_at_5
Note: The admin button does not appear next to like buttons without the “show faces” set to on, so if you have a button where you don’t see peoples photos when they click like, then you won’t see an admin button. If you’re using a comments box, sometimes you need to click on “like”, then “unlike” to make the admin button appear. Failing all of this, you need to check the open graph meta tags to ensure you’re either giving admin access to either 1. An application, or 2. To specific user ID’s, you should see something like one of the following on every page with OG tags:
<meta property="fb:admins" content="USER_ID1,USER_ID2"/>
<meta property="fb:app_id" content="1234567"/>
To send a message to the “likers” of your Open Graph Object, you can click on the “Admin Page” link and you will be taken to a page that looks similar to a fan page, from there you can post to the wall, which effectively pushes your post to all the people who have liked the object. Note: The post can also include URL’s, etc.

If you want to send messages programatically or to thousands of objects at once, then you need to look at the programmable solution, the one thing to note here is that the “id” field must be numeric, it cannot be the URL as is incorrectly documented on the Facebook page and shown below:

Open_graph_issue
Case Study: GoPetition.com

Below shows the statistics from a site where the Open Graph tags were implemented properly. The site has recently peaked at over 3500 new likes in a single day, which is approximately an order of magnitude above new daily email subscribers. The staggering statistic is the ability to generate viral traffic and accumulate new subscribers to a key communication channel in a single step, with efficiency far beyond most other mechanisms.  

Fb_growth_dec_10

Contact us now if you need help implementing Facebook Open Graph on your website!

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