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Facebook Takes Action, Introduces Action Links to the Open Graph

In September 2011 at its f8 Developer Conference, Facebook introduced the social world to frictionless sharing and Action Verbs. With the rollout of its Open Graph, the 900 million strong social network declared that the future of engagement would be driven by both implicit and explicit actions. Explicit actions require the user to click a button such as “Like,” “Share,” “Recommend,” or “Comment.” Implicit actions on the other hand only require that the user run an app designed using the Open Graph platform where updates (or Action Verbs) are sent to the timeline automagically depending on what the app is designed to do.

But, this frictionless experience is not without its friction.

As Open Graph apps such as Washington Posts’ Social Reader or Spotify send updates into user Newsfeeds, such as “Brian Solis is reading…” or “…is listening to…,” what happens next is where friction is at risk of sparking. As I warned in earlier this year developers who don’t think through the end-to-end user experience or the “click to action” from engagement to the Newsfeed to the desired social effect may not only lose momentum, they may reverse adoption.

The goal of an Open Graph strategy is not to just send an interesting Action Verb into the timeline to entice a click, it must unlock a microcosm of fellowship. The Action Verb is just the hook, but it is what unfolds next that influences whether or not a new user installs the app and continues to use it as part of their everyday Facebook routine. Indeed, the Open Graph is an open invitation to creativity and innovation. At the same time, it’s also an opportunity to introduce ways to expand relevant shares and app-generated engagement from social graph to social graph.

Automatic status updates using Action Verbs are just the beginning. Now Facebook is introducing Action Links. If Action Verbs are designed to trigger the social effect, Action Links are intended to drive intended outcomes or “clicks to action.”

Here we see a couple of difference examples where an automatic update now included a link at the bottom for friends to take action. In the Fab example, the Action Verb is “faved” and the Action Link lets friends “Fave this Product.”

Like Action Verbs, no pun intended, the success of Action Links is dependent on the experience as designed by your UX or dev team. The click must, in the very least do one or more of the following…

1. Serve a purpose

2. Offer entertainment

3. Deliver engagement

4. Contribute to self expression or personal branding

5. Enable commerce

Don’t rule out F-commerce just yet. 8thBridge developed an entire platform on Facebook’s Open Graph that demonstrates what’s possible with Action Verbs and Action Links. In the example below, you see the introduction of three new buttons, “I Want,” “Love,” and “Own” on the TOMS e-commerce site. Upon the click, an Action Verb update is sent to the user’s Facebook Newsfeed expressing the sentiment tied to each button. At the bottom of the update, friends are invited to add the item into their own bag trying social and e-commerce together through peer-to-peer influence.

8thBridge also visualizes how Action Verbs and Action Links tie into a user-centric social commerce ecosystem where Facebook services as the epicenter for personal experiences and engagement.

As AllFacebook shared, the 8thBridge Graphite launch included several ecommerce partners that connect people, experiences and brands through what I refer to as the A.R.T. of engagement (Actions, Reactions and Transactions). While primary Action Verbs were based on Want, Own, and Love, other unique examples include:

Deb: I want, Ask a friend, I’m wearing

Guitar Center: Play

Hallmark: Tearing up, Smile, LOL

Nasty Gal: Neeed (yes, 3 “e’s”), Gimme, and Three hearts

Oscar de la Renta: Wore

Aside from the fact that GM abandoned Facebook advertising for the time being, it’s time to see Facebook as a vibrant and connected community, not as a stockade of eyeballs. The Open Graph opens the door to an entirely new egosystem of user-centered experiences that have yet to be fully defined or harnessed. And, that’s the point. Action Verbs and Action Links are only as meaningful as the outcomes and journeys they create.

Connect with me: Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+

The End of Business as Usual is officially here…

Image Credit (edited): Shutterstock

29 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Facebook Takes Action, Introduces Action Links to the Open Graph”

  1. Swamykant says:

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing the information.

  2. I’ve just found a study by Crowdtap which suggests that: ”
    Consumers trust recommendations from peers from over all forms of advertising but content really spreads 5 to 1 on Twitter and 9 to 1 on Facebook and here’s Facebook, taking Action. 

  3. Oh my hell, as a consumer I find these implicit auto-magic blast an annoyance and my eyes feel like I’ve cheated them if they ever do catch my attention. As a consumer I hate them. When I start using them in my business, I may very come to love what they do for my business. Always interesting to see how this beast that is Facebook is aging.  

    • briansolis says:

       Aging or maturing?

    • Johnypro says:

      Ha! Great point Brian

    • What a marvelous thought-provoking question I’m interpreting this to be. And in only three words. My short retort is… both.

      Now I’ll flesh out what I mean by this.

      I’ve come to believe that there is no right and wrong and that I never want to buy into an idea more than 50%. There are only perspectives. And at best we only have a partial perspective. There is always a counter example of someone, somewhere making the opposite view work.

      And when it comes to the cash cow that is the WORLD WIDE interwebz social media trend, the perspectives are exponential – it’s far beyond one person’s view vs. another.

      People can doom their lives when they lock in and make permanent the perspective they have of themselves – “I’m this way,” “This is who I am,” “I’m a {insert self-limiting identity here}”.  and this thinking is what leads the majority, 80+ percent of the population to age or mature in the manner of disgraced desperation.

      The herd goes down with the ship that is their interpretation of what is possible for them desperately clinging to an identity which serves as the fart-stained cushion that is their comfort zone that made it okay for them to just be “okay” or worse on the spectrum of what they’re capable of.

      Most people are mental midgets by choice, not by capacity.

      And of course, until the robots and zombies tag team us into submission and force us to tap out, dysfunctional and imperfect people run businesses. Some managing their dysfunction better than others. 

      With this being the case, most business owners can’t clearly state, in one sentence, the business
      they’re really in. When you know business’s purpose, you can do this.

      The current version of your business tells you and the world what business you’re REALLY in.

      Where most people screw up is by not defining their business from the point of view of your customers – the self-serving end result that the customers will enjoy as a result of taking advantage of using your products and services.

      Once upon a time railroads dominated cross-country transportation.

      The corporate board members were high on the hog swimming in the massive flow of cash that was surging into their bank accounts. But their domination didn’t last because they defined themselves as being in the business of “running railroads” rather than “being in the business of moving freight and people over long distances in the most efficient and most effective manner possible.”

      They had the chance to partner with Ford and expand their empire when he started building trucks but they clung to the fart-stained cushion of comfort they’d established for themselves in their narrowly defined world. And so instead of being able to steam roll the capital gains that poured in from the truck venture into buses, shipping companies, and eventually airlines, they assigned themselves to being spectators to each of those opportunities and went from being the steam engine in the transportation industry, to being the caboose.   

      I wonder what business Mark Zuckerberg and goons he took on with going public think of themselves as being in?

      If Mark & company see themselves solely as a social media platform, they’re relegating themselves to becoming the next Myspace.

      In this social media universe you get old fast. It’s like dog years over here. The reality of the situation is that Facebook is aging.

      Some businesses that have risen to the pinnacle of the tech world are taking actions that allow them to age
      gracefully – Google for example. Some, not so much – Myspace.   This means that if Facebook wants to maintain their position as the engine that pulls everyone else behind them, they can’t afford to be a noun – a static entity. They have to think of themselves in a verb-like manner – in action – moving forward.

      The people who succeed in business embrace the enlightened version of the “ing”. Matur-ing, evolv-ing, enhanc-ing, re-inventing – language that implies a “process of progress”; not a “life sentence”.

      People bitch about Facebook making changes to the layout and other tweaks they make but little do they know how crucial some form of quarterly, bi-annual Botox like this is needed in order to keep the herd thinking of this site as “Facebook-ing” in the verb tense instead of a tech noun “Facebook” which equals “stagnant” in the minds of market.   

      Historical stories of business adaptation can teach us so much if we let them. 

      Back at the end of the 1940’s, Harley Davidson motorcycles were the objects of lust in the eyes of the younger male Americans.

      At the end of World War II all of the G.I.’s were coming home and they had a hard time adjusting to being “normal” again. They had looked death in the face and lived on the edge for years. You don’t feel that intense of a level of emotion and not be affected by it.

      The men who came back proud of themselves wanted to stay connected to the identity of being a bad ass and being an accountant, working at a cash register, working on the line at the auto plant, or any other number of other mundane jobs didn’t allow them to experience this like their former job did so they need an outlet.

      Harley Davidson stepped in with a solution. And of course the business of putting yourself in danger atop a motor and a couple of wheels and being seen as adventurous by others was booming.

      Then, in the eighties the Japanese started building lighter, faster, cheaper, stronger bikes and Harley started tanking. They were on the verge of bankruptcy.

      What turned them around? Strategic Innovation.

      A consultant came in asked Harley to really hone down what business they were in. Harley started looking at who their customers really were and asking themselves what they really buy from them.

      Is it metal and leather? NO!

      They finally came to the realization that these people are buying an icon. They’re buying an identity. They’re buying legacy. These aren’t just bikes – they are legends.

      Gradually they came to realize, after being around so long that what they’re selling is a heritage. They’re selling a lifestyle. They’re selling nostalgia.

      Guess who buys the most Harleys? Baby boomers, age 38-50. Mainly guys who still want to be a bad ass even though they’re out of their prime. So of course Harley started working on appealing to this market so they could keep and attract more of them.

      They also came to the awesome conclusion that they weren’t in the motorcycle business but instead were in the Nostalgia and Identity business.

      And because they pulled their head out of their ass, it’s no surprise that all these decades later they can still bring over 500,000 people with a death wish (that’s anyone who rides a motorcycle in my eyes) together in South Dakota with their Harley’s for their annual Sturgis celebration.  

      Harley had to get slapped around and knocked down before they got their ass in gear. It didn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way for Facebook either.

      Maybe I’m crazy but it seems to me that Facebook could benefit from seeing themselves as being in the Heritage, Lifestyle, Nostalgia and Identity business.

      And what’s cool is that they can be in this business and not only cater to groups of school kids seeking identity and nostalgia, but also writers, stay-at-home moms, veterans, rappers, preachers, bikers, hell any person in hobby related group or special interest group who can access the site for that matter. 

      A recent study showed that the average person has .7 best friends.

      Yes, you read that right. The average person doesn’t even have one person they can confide in. This stat should be a driving statistic in the forefront of Facebook’s mind. What if one of their goals of their innovation was to raise this to 1 best friend per person via their platform?

      Across the millions of users from all over the planet, that’d be a whole lot of love being spread around via their purpose.

      What if any revenue generating decision on Facebook’s part had to serve not just the shareholders interests but had to serve the purpose of the business which was to enhance the end users ability to create those unforgettable magic moments in which a person’s identity is validated and memories are consistently being filed away and documented via timeline to be used as fuel for nostalgia? 

      It seems like Mark has steered the Facebook ship in the direction of doing this which has led the company to age and mature at a pace that allows it to dominate the world but now that the business is out of the hands of the founder, and other people get a vote, it’ll be interesting to see if the board’s
      desire for instant gratification for themselves will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.  

      I don’t have billions dollars on hand so I won’t judge and I won’t presume to know what’s going through Zuckerberg’s mind when he decides what gets the green light and what doesn’t but I trust that if whatever does, allows the following quote to come true for Mark, that Facebook will consistently evolve in a way that allows the company to age like wine and blossom in it’s maturity.

      “I pray thee O God that I may be beautiful within.”

      Thank you Brian for encouraging me with your question to remind myself of what is true for me. 🙂

    • Reuben Bell says:

      Good post 🙂

    • Hey Reuben Bell,

      If you’re reading this, Thank You for your compliment. I have the Disqus comment notification in my inbox showing me what you said yesterday in response to the comment but when I follow the link, I don’t see you here which is why I’m replying to my own comment.

      I just wanted to give you a shout out and make sure you didn’t think I dogged you. See ya around. 🙂

    • briansolis says:

       Lewis…now I’m inspired. Well done sir. This should be a post in of itself!

    • It is inspiring to think that Facebook might be on a covert mission to put all of us in charge of writing the rough draft of our autobiography without us even knowing that we’re doing so.

      What will be revolutionary is they ever make it possible for people to download everything uploaded to their page by year – 2010 Year Book, 2011 Year Book, 2012 Year Book, etc. (MONETIZING OPPORTUNITY) – that you can edit and convert into an ebook format (with the option to print) that you get to reflect back upon in an organized offline/physical scrapbook manner.  

      If indeed they were doing this, it’s absolutely genius the way they’ve gone about it because they’ve made no mention of “writing your autobiography”.

      That would be the perfect way to freak people out because the average person doesn’t see themselves as a “writer” but in fact, they are “writers” because they don’t have someone putting pressure asking them to step into the role of a “writer”.

      The herd feels comfortable “commenting” and “posting” one sentence or paragraph at a time. Ask this same person to “write a story” about their week though and you’d see their face shift into the deer in the head lights blank stare of fright.  

      Of course, the majority of people aren’t very good at writing but as is, they’re consistently getting SOMETHING on the page and the compounding effect of this culminated into a year book would very likely impress them and this chronicling would never have done otherwise.

      There’s probably some adverse stuff getting in the way of making this a reality that I’m not thinking of in the moment but I’ve got to take my ass to bed so I’m not gonna think them out here now.

      Be interesting to see when this happens.  

      And yes, in order for me to justify doing that comment right, I had to make the effort I poured in here serve as a double-double; a comment AND a post for my site (posted yesterday). I wish I had hours just to pour into reading and commenting but if that were the case, nowhere near everything would get done in my business.I greatly appreciate the feedback you have given me here and I commend you for being such a steady source of thorough and enlightening internet marketing insights. You my friend, are a force for good!     

    • Stumbled upon this comment via Disqus (I am experimenting with following people through that platform in order to discover interesting conversations people are having around the web).  This really should be its own post, as Brian Solis put it.  Thanks for the dose of awesome!

    • Well, now thanks to you Christina, I’ve begun my experiment with following people in the 2012 brand diddly spankin’ new version of Disqus.

      While proceeding to follow you, I noticed a couple of things.

      First, that you’re the community manager for an awesome restaurant; Jason’s Deli. I moved to Las Vegas a few months ago and with the 9 jillion fine food establishments set up in the casinos blowing my mind and Yelp’s help, I haven’t had a bad “Local Restaurant” meal here yet. But because we have awesome food coming out of our eyes here, I haven’t even noticed if there’s a Jason’s here like there was in Arizona where I moved here from.

      Second, that you live in city I need to get my butt down to being that my grandpa recently moved there to Austin to live closer to my aunt. One of these days I’ll quit dinking around and fly down to see the family and from what I hear, one helluva city.

      Thank you for taking some of what I deem to be our most precious asset, our alert attention, to give me some feedback. I very appreciate it and look forward to seeing you around the way. 🙂  

    • I liked the word: “egosystem”, wich we’re looking at since social media bloom.
      And I think it’s maturity. As we’re seeing things like the “promote” option for every post, we’re witnessing the building of a perfect advertising platform for brands. With all these new verbs that coud be included is like having an ongoing market survey (which sounds great) But to tell you the truth I’m not happy at all with this, because I’m started thinking that if we don’t pay a cent in fb ads, we’ll not have the reach we supposed we have or can have.

  4. Michele Price says:

    Now we are getting into the good stuff baby.  The end-user mindset still generates friction for many to stand in that space and absorb.  Anytime we have new – we have resistance.  I am finding it amazing that time is increasing our ability to keep growing in the social space.  When I reflect back even 5 years ago and see how far we have come – the next five years excite me.  Wondering what will it look like and how will we all play a part.

  5. Cory Huff says:

    I wonder if this will see the same rate of sharp adoption, and then sharp decline, as the frictionless sharing apps.

    Also, with the recent reports of fan page engagement dropping off so dramatically, I wonder what Facebook might do to force businesses to cough up more cash to keep these Action Links visible in the activity stream.

    Promoted Actions?

    • Borch Hansen says:

      Since this is a new feature, they will need to calibrate what is shown. Every time Facebook releases a new feature like this, it’s like Klondike for those who can implement it fast enough but it  never lasts long.

  6. Dara Bell says:

    Hi Brian,

                          I think your comment early in the post on action verbs resonates with me. I feel Like is sticky concept. They form the narrative of the company and it’s brand power. I can’t love +1 just yet even though Guy Kawasaki raves about G+, the language doesn’t support it. I love you Guy!  Liking will be added to dictionaries soon just like Googling.

    I think again as you point out with the Tom’s experience Marketeers need to keep this in their messaging strategy. What I notice coming from a Product  Marketing background and working in retail for Terence Conran that naming was a big deal. Both in the Marketing material and the products themselves.  Toms’ like Ben and Jerry spend alot of thought on each product name. Each shoe has a name and charitable personal story. The language at the checkout extends that story/feeling of connection.

    I think the Bodyshop’s been using action verbs well for years. When I met Anita Roddick I got a real sense ‘naming’ as Seth Godin calls it was important to her companies growth. Branding online is maturing and learning from the big success i.e Facebook.

                          Talk later


  7. We agree that the introduction of action links will bring help to the social media marketing, and hopefully this will improve the methods for evaluating ROI. If the Facebook commerce will be a success remains to be seen, as well as the development for business areas.

  8. Facebook needs a way to turn their advertising problems around and to find a way to get it into the newsfeed. This new advertising model that adds relevancy to user responses will look more organic in the beginning while users get used to it, but the real test will be how it performs in the long term. Whether users will come to see it as just a variation on a standard ‘like’ or not remains to be seen.

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