Thrive in our connected world

f-commerce Unleashed: Microsoft, Pandora & Yelp Show the Open Graph Way

Barely a week since launch, 50,000+ sites are already using Facebook’s new ‘Open Graph’ social plugins to offer visitors social features they are accustomed to in Facebook; the social plugin for the already ubiquitous Like button alone generated 1,000,000,000 impressions within 24 hours of debuting, and it may be set to play an important role in the evolution of Web 3.0 – the semantic web.

For social commerce, the opportunities are clear – brands and retailers can now add Facebook social features, social context and social relevancy to e-commerce sites with no more than a single line of code; new markup tags register a product pages as unique objects in Facebook, pulling them into, and allowing them to profit from the Facebook ecosystem. As a bonus, sites deploying Open Graph social plugins get to use Facebook’s powerful Insights metrics tools.

In a nutshell, with Open Graph, what happens in Facebook, doesn’t stay in Facebook. No longer confined to storefronts within Facebook, f-commerce is will be coming to a site near you.  Open Graph is f-commerce unleashed.

Of course, some of the functionality offered by Open Graph social plugins and the associated API and SDK isn’t entirely new; it has or rather had been available with Facebook Connect (which has now been retired), but implementation required coding-ninja skills in XFBML and FQL.  In contrast, the new social plugins offer a more-or-less one-click solution for deploying compelling personalized social shopping experiences.

1. Like Button:  Provides shoppers with a social context to online shopping, showing them which of their friends like a product or site (see as an early use of this for aggregating likes or recommendations (the ‘like’ label on the button can be relabeled as ‘recommend’), and lets them share pages from your site back to their Facebook profile with one click.

2. Activity Feed: Allows shoppers to see a filtered view of their News Feed relevant to your site – i.e. your News Feed and the likes and comments of their friends

3. Recommendations Plugin:  Offers shoppers suggestions for things they might like – a collaborative filtering algorithm based on the collective mutual interests of shoppers on the site, as well as from the shopper’s personal friends.

4. Like Box Plugin: Allows shoppers to see your Facebook stream directly on your website

5. Facepile Plugin: Provides a social context to shopping by showing shoppers the profile pictures of the their friends who have already signed up for your site.

6. Login Button with Faces Plugin: (Replaces Facebook Connect Login Button): Provides a social context to shopping by showing shoppers the profile pictures of the their friends who have already signed up for your site.

7. Comments Plugin:  Allows shoppers to comment on products and deals on your site

8. Live Stream Plugin: Allows shoppers to shop together, sharing activity and comments in real-time on your site

9. Social Bar Plugin (coming soon): Adds an all-in-one social shopping toolbar (not dissimilar of DecisionStep Meebo social bars) to a site that includes the Like button, friends who like the site, and Facebook Chat

10. Facebook Credits: Not a social plugin per se, but Facebook is ramping up it’s virtual currency ‘Credits’ by offering them as a payout option for online loyalty/referral rewards programs through is App2User program, as well as making purchasing credits easier.

To illustrate the potential of Open Graph, Facebook has showcased three companies already using it to offer personalized socially-enhanced experiences on their sites; Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft.  Whilst these examples do not pertain specifically to social commerce,  a little lateral thinking reveals how they might be used to offer compelling social shopping experiences.

Yelp: When you now visit the ratings and reviews site, you see a notification that the content is already being personalized for you based on your social graph (with opportunity to opt out).  In practice, what this means you see a ‘Friend’s Activity’ link in the top let hand corner, giving you access to ratings, reviews and comments made by your friends, two photo-bars of friends – those using the site, and those currently on the site, and the FBLike buttons next to search results that you can send to your news feed.  Social Commerce Opportunity: Levi’s Style Social Shopping.

Pandora: When you now access the Internet radio site, you’ll see – like Yelp – a notification that the content is already being personalized for you based on your social graph.  What this means in practice is that there is a new feature on the interface, called Friends’ Music, which you allows you to explore the radio stations and tracks liked by your Facebook friends.  For a FB immigrant as opposed to a FB native, it still feels spookily intimate to ruffle through friends personal music (Séverine – Fedde Le Grand, really?). Pandora will also let you know visually when you’re listening to a track or artist favorited by a friend, and if you like a track on FB, Pandora will play a recommendation based on this, when you next log on. Social Commerce Opportunity: Social Wishlists, Giftlists, Picklists and Popularity Lists; Personalized Shopping Recommendations.

Microsoft: As with Yelp and Pandora, you see a notification at the top of the page that new Microsoft site (in private beta) and would-be Google Docs challenger, is personalizing your experience.  In plain English, what this means is that you can share docs with some or all of your FB contacts, publish docs to your FB Wall (allowing others can comment on it), and browse shared documents of your FB friends on the site. Social Commerce Opportunity: What if the Document was a Coupon?  Deal Sharing.  Or a call to arms to organize a Tuangou (team buying event)?

Of course, using Facebook as a social commerce solution provider is not devoid of risks as competitor DecisionStep has pointed out; and joining your site at the hips with the whims of Mark Zuckerburg could be something of a roller-coaster ride.  Nevertheless, Facebook’s Open Graph is a game-changer in social commerce, and the social commerce world has just got a lot more exciting.

Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.