What is Facebook Open Graph?

You might have heard the term "Facebook Open Graph" lately and wondered what it is. Sure, Facebook Connect has been around for a while, but what is the "Open Graph"?

Mark Zuckerberg @ f8

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at SES Toronto in the Facebook Feeding Frenzy session with Andrew Goodman, Dennis Yu, Duane Brown and Mark Rosenberg. One interesting bit of information that came out of the session is just how many people still aren't aware of Facebook Open Graph or what it does - it's still a big mystery and completely new to many people.

A Quick Open Graph History

Back in 2008, Facebook launched Facebook Connect. Its those little blue facebook buttons you see on websites that let you comment on a blog post without having to sign up for an account with that particular website.

Facebook Connect allows people to sign in to an external website using their Facebook account. It was highly successful and within a year, it had 100 million users on Web and Mobile sites.

In April of 2010, Facebook launched it's "Open Graph" API. What this platform does is let you do much, much more than just connect your site to Facebook. It's a new set of programming tools that let's you get information in and out of facebook.

In only one week, the new Open Graph plug-ins were found on 50,000 websites.

Facebook Social Plugins

With the new API comes several new plug-ins that you can reasonably easily drop into your site. The new plugins are:

  • Like Button
  • Activity Feed
  • Recommendations
  • Like Box
  • Login Button
  • Facepile
  • Comments
  • Live Stream

Facebook Social Plugins

The idea behind the plugins is that you can include them on your pages easily, and make your pages social "objects" part of the Facebook Open Graph. Translation: Your pages become more closely integrated with Facebook - even to the point of becoming extended Facebook pages hosted on your domain!

The "Like" Button

One of the most interesting and possibly useful new Social plugin from Facebook is the new version of the "Like Button". The "Like" button turns any of your pages into a Facebook "Fan" page, but hosted on your website.

When people visiting your page click on the new version of the "Like" button, they become "fans" of the page. This means that the link is shared with their network on facebook, and also you are now able to add content to their Facebook News Feed.

That's powerful stuff! On a good note, anyone who comes to your site and "Likes" a page automatically becomes a fan, and you can send them content in their News Feed from then on.

On the downside, anyone who comes to your site and "Likes" a page automatically becomes a fan, and you can send them content in their News Feed from then on. From the users point of view, they will probably not be aware that they are implicitly giving you this permission, so you need to treat this capability with great respect until Facebook creates controls for users to deal with this functionality.

How to Add Facebook Open Graph to your Pages

There are a few steps that have to be taken to add Facebook Open Graph on your website, but they are reasonably simple. You need to add some meta tags to your page, and a bit of HTML. To make your efforts effective, you'll probably also want to make sure that someone will be in charge of administering your Facebook presence - but that's a different post for another day.

To get Facebook Open Graph added to your website, point your developer at the following links to get them started:

Facebook Social plugins
Open Graph protocol

These pages should give your developer or designer enough information to include Facebook Open Graph functionality into your website.

About the Author: Helen M. Overland

Vice President at Search Engine People, helping clients with Conversion Optimization, Analytics, and On-Page SEO. Online Marketer since June 2000, Internet geek since 1994. Follow me on twitter at @semlady to see what I'm reading now.


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