A Marketer's Guide To The Social Graph

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Lots of Bloggers have begun to dissect the concept of a Social Graph. One of the better definitions of the Social Graph comes from Between The Lines, a ZDNet Blog posting, titled, Facebook’s Zuckerberg Uncorks The Social Graph:

“(Mark) Zuckerberg attributed the power of Facebook to the ‘social graph,’ the network of connections and relationships between people on the service. He said, ‘It’s the reason Facebook works… It’s changing the way the world works, pushing information out faster than any big company can. As Facebook adds more and more people with more and more connections it continues growing and becomes more useful at a faster rate. We are going to use it spread information through the social graph. The net effect of the social graph is that groups and application can achieve exponential growth,’ he said.” 

There is a developing hierarchy and folksonomy of how individuals connect and what this means as society becomes much more reliant on online social networks (like Facebook). I have been kicking around some thoughts surrounding the Social Graph, Personal Branding, Technology that’s easy to use, and what the impact will be on Marketers. One of the sparks for these thoughts came a few weeks ago as the term ‘Social Graph’ began popping up more and more on Blogs and Podcasts.

Then, while reading a recent issue of BusinessWeek Magazine that featured the cover story, The Facebook Effect, I was struck by this quote:

“A ‘social graph’ links us all. People communicate through those connections.â€? There was Mark Zukerberg, again, talking about the Social Graph of people and not the online social network platform. 

Zuckerberg isn’t talking about platforms. He’s not talking Web 2.0, Social Media or online social networking. He’s talking about people. He’s insinuating that, as human beings, one of our primary needs (here comes some Maslow again…) is self-actualization. How do we actualize? By connecting to one another with the net result being that we are validated (in some form or fashion). Facebook, with Zukerberg at the helm, is looking to get away from online social networks as they deep dive into the people, the community and how this all links together. 

I’m fascinated by this shift in attitude.

There’s a very clear trajectory that got us from the original BBS‘ (Bulletin Board Services) to where we are now – with the crazed growth of places like Facebook and Bebo. The Social Graph must take a significant priority over the Social Network. It’s clear… and it’s becoming more and more obvious. We’re getting to the point where technology, broadband, devices, geography will no longer be an issue. So, what’s left? The social graph – how we’re linked to each other and what that hierarchy looks like. It won’t be about which platform the Consumers are on, I think it’s going to be about who we’re connected to and the value of the social graph instead of the network.

Marketers love drowning themselves in a sea of data. As Online Advertising took hold the general consensus was that the data we were capturing  – from advertising with banners, search and email marketing – was overwhelming. Most Marketers don’t use this data to its full potential because of the complexity and density of it all. Imagine adding in the layer of the social graph. Imagine knowing not just what an individual clicked on, but who else in their social network might be open to your messages.

The possibilities become endless, and we can begin to appreciate how the analytical side of what we know about the Social Graph will weigh heavy on the type of creative and programs we initiate within online environments and social networks. The real Marketers who will lead the charge are the ones who are spending the time now investing in either developing or partnering with technology that is attempting to crack the Social Graph code into tangible bits of data and insights that will connect all of us more effectively to our consumers.

Prior to online social networking, The Social Graph was, traditionally, something only cared about by those interested in Genealogy. Because of what’s happening now online, Marketers are starting to realize that online channels are not just a place to advertise, but vast and powerful communities with many nodes and connections. The challenge is that this Social Graph does not hold the same values that we’re accustomed to, and how people are linked in the Social Graph goes well beyond looking at top-level data like family trees and geography.

It’s a brand new world of analytics for Marketers. It’s rich with data and insights. The Social Graph could well be the next Digital Oasis for Marketers, and I can’t help but point out the pretty palm trees I see just over the horizon. 


  1. This is a great post. Facebook has really changed the face of how people interact online and set a new standard. I think we’ve all started to notice that it has started to blend professional and personal aspects of one’s life.

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