Facebook is bringing a boatload of apps and actions onto the social network. Now, instead of just “Liking” something, you can say you read it, listened to it, or watched it, all through your favorite web and mobile apps.
While a huge number of these semantically linked verbs, called Actions, are going to be appearing in various places around Facebook and Facebook-connected websites, two Actions might be more commercially significant than the rest: “Want” and “Own.” Because, if you follow the money, these two actions are most closely linked to Facebook’s main source of revenue, its advertising real estate and targeting.
For the past few years, companies have been attempting to make the most, capitalistically speaking, from Facebook’s vast, interconnected social graph. The Open Graph (including Facebook Connect and the now-ubiquitous Like button) further brings brands and products into the social web of people, much to the delight of marketers and e-commerce companies.
Facebook announced major Open Graph changes in the works at its developer conference last year. While Actions were a part of that preview, the company’s first launches around the evolution of Open Graph were all about music — both sharing the music you’re into and listening along with friends.
“This [release] is really heavily about shopping,” said Payvment CEO Christian Taylor, who told us that some Actions announced today might end up be far more important than the already ubiquitous “Like” button.
“Wanting,” “Owning,” & buying on Facebook
Payvment is one of the leading enablers of “f-commerce,” or retail and commerce occurring on and around Facebook. This company developed with Facebook and has been using “Want” and “Own” buttons for several months.
In the image on the left, you can see Payvment’s buttons in action.
“The Open Graph has been around for two years, but it was really based on the Like button, which never really worked for shopping,” Taylor told VentureBeat in an interview yesterday.
“It really doesn’t mean anything to anybody. So to help people understand their relationship to product, we created a Want button… and an Own button.”
When users click the “Want” and “Own” buttons, it triggers Facebook to update dynamic lists related to those terms. For the “Want” button, the result is a sort of real-time wishlist; the “Own” button acts almost as a catalog tool for a digital closet that’s linked to a real-world collection of items. Several other shopping and fashion apps are using similar Actions, as well, and all to the same general effect.
These buttons are very obviously linked to reality-based purchasing intention and purchase patterns — not just what people are idly talking about on the Internet, but what they’ve actually put down money for in the recent past and what their acquisitive aspirations are.
Understanding the semantic web of information between people and the things they buy can give analysts and marketers deep information on relationships between people and purchases. That information can be used to better target advertising and influence consumers’ decisions, opinions, aspirations, and attitudes.
Best of all for Payvment and Facebook merchants and brands, Taylor said, consumers are actually using the buttons.
“In our testing, more people used it than we ever thought would,” he said. “We’ve been testing this for the past two months. It shocked us, how many people went around collecting the things they love and have.”
As consumers click around the web, indicating what they want and own, their Facebook profiles are updated accordingly — not in the public-facing Timeline, but in deep-dive sections of the profile. “You get to see what other people’s interests are, what they own,” said Taylor.
Is Facebook an Amazon challenger?
We asked Taylor if he thought Facebook was positioning itself to take on Amazon, which also has wishlists and has been attempting to coordinate group and social activity around buying and product discovery.
“If you think about Amazon’s wishlist, it’s not very social,” Taylor said.
“["Want" and "Own" features] really are about sharing with your friends… It’s less about building lists and more about sharing, and really finding other people that aren’t connected to you but that have the same interests as you that you can interact with.”
Taylor also said that the process of browsing through friends’ owned and wanted items would create a uniquely social way to find out about new products, content, and more.
“There’s no discovery mechanism [with Amazon's wishlist]. These new buttons are really going to drive discovery, just like Spotify did with music.”
We’ll be keeping an eye on how people use these buttons and many other Facebook Actions over the coming weeks and months — and, perhaps even more importantly, how marketers and e-commerce companies use that information to sell, sell, sell.