Facebook’s API Will Change Marketing Forever

Note: This post was written prior to Facebook’s formal announcement detailing which data sets will be accessible by third party developers.

The web is flooded with news everyday, most of it trivial, but every once in a while we get a day that is a true game changer. Today is that day for all marketers. Today Facebook will announce changes to its API allowing third-party developers to access user submitted information from Facebook for use in their applications. You are asking yourself right now, what do geeky API calls have to do with marketing? Everything.

Now that you have read my previous post about API marketing, I hope that you are beggining to see the implications of Facebook’s announcement. Facebook with more than 200 million users is the largest social network on the Internet. API data has gone primarily under the radar until now because most applications offering APIs had much smaller user-bases. Twitter is the application that made API’s popular.  It has more than 3,000 applications built on its API but it only has around 13 million users. Facebook in addition to having a huge amount of users also has a vast variety of data from text, images, videos, etc.

Opening The Walled Garden

Until this most recent announcement of API changes Facebook as been considered a walled garden in which you had to be a member logged into Facebook to share information and once logged out the information was not accessible. Companies have had access to most user submitted information.  This includes information on sites like Twitter, Digg, message boards, and niche social networks thanks to tools like Google Blog Search, Filter Box, Radian6 and other tools built to monitor user submitted data. However, Facebook and its mountain of data remained the kid by itself standing in the corner.

Why is Facebook doing this?

Understand that these changes to its API offers Facebook the greatest potential for monetizing of their platform. Their has long been discussion about the lack of effectiveness of advertising in social networks and Facebook knows this. Lets be clear, really brilliant people work at Facebook, they know what they are doing. They understand the true value they have is in the data not eyeballs. I have said this before but it is worth repeating.

The social web economy is about data and relationships relationships not about eyeballs and impressions.

That being said this API announcement is the first step for Facebook to monetize its data. For example, Twitter users that use desktop applications are currently allowed 100 API requests per hour. Sending a tweet, looking up a profile, doing a search, are each one API request. Facebook could potentially set a free level of API request activity and then charge developers for additional API requests. This is a simplified monetization strategy but could be the foundation for the approach they take.

Implications For Brand Marketers:

If you are a marketer, your job changed today.  Today Facebook gave you the keys to a luxury sedan of consumer insight and data. Most commentary surrounding Facebook’s API changes will be detailing what developers can do with the new API. Their will also be discussions about the validity of building a business on another company’s platform. This post though is for marketers, especially the non-geek marketers, the people that may not even know what an API is.

Marketers have spent years trying to determine what their customers want and what triggers actually lead a consumer to by a product. This has been done through market research, focus groups, surveys and a host of other methods used to collect customer data. Today the social web has flipped that process because now consumers are freely submitting their own information onto the web and the organizations that can effectively collect and analyze it and use it to build positive relationships with consumers will be successful.

Facebook has opened the spigot on the web’s most robust source of social consumer data. Here are some examples of how this data could be used by brand marketers:

  • Incorporate Facebook data into existing social media monitoring systems for added insight
  • Company’s like Ford that have dealers that sell their products could build applications that sort by location consumers talking about buying or needing a new car and what they are looking for. This information could be used to provide insight to the dealer on local customers as well as their opinions of dealer’s advertising and marketing.
  • Create an extensional of current CRM sales tools that incorporates individuals Facebook updates and data into their CRM profile in real-time. This could be used to make more relevant sales calls, meetings and help build relationships.
  • Aggregate and display how consumers are currently using your product to showcase uses to potential consumers from a trusted third-party.

Above are only some quick thoughts and more possibilities will be known once Facebook releases its updated API documentation later today. If you are a marketer you must realize that user generated data is key to future consumer insights and building brand advocates. Today Facebook has handed you something you have long been looking for…

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One Response to “Facebook’s API Will Change Marketing Forever”

  1. Facebook’s API Changes Will Change Marketing and Consumer Insight: http://bit.ly/QCODB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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