Open Graph Apps Update Details

Last week, Facebook revamped the custom verb approval process for its Open Graph apps. In an effort to drive more engagement to apps, Open Graph stories will be better presented in news feed and on timeline. Custom actions that represent content consumption (such as “view”) will no longer be approved. Instead, apps must use built-in actions (read, watch, listen, follow, or like) or require explicit user activity on a custom verb (quite the contrary to frictionless sharing) to trigger user stories. In addition, Facebook is increasing the prominence of two particularly engaging story types – image-led and location stories – in news feed and timeline, and restricting how apps post to the walls of users’ friends in order to reduce negative feedback.

Implications for Paid Media

Advertisers will have tighter control over the composition of organic stories generated by user activity on the Open Graph. This should have a ripple effect on the underutilized Open Graph sponsored story ad type (and action spec targeting as a whole) and change the advertising landscape for app developers.

open graph sponsored story

Open Graph sponsored story example

While the inherent virality of frictionless sharing has spurred explosive growth for assorted apps leveraging the Open Graph (and led to some of the user frustrations and negative feedback that Facebook is trying to address here), Open Graph sponsored stories have yet to be widely adopted by marketers. This is likely due to suboptimal open graph verb implementations, incomplete information regarding the effectiveness of this ad type, silos between app/product development and paid media/user acquisition teams, and logistical challenges such as performance tracking and user flow.

As the souped-up App Center and increasing adoption of the Open Graph make Facebook a more potent platform for app developers, Facebook will need to continue to refine its ads products for this audience. Facebook stands to gain by inducing developers to integrate with its social features as this increases the utility of Facebook as a driver of traffic to apps and app stores and as a source of content to its users, while also increasing the amount of user data and time spent in the Facebook ecosystem. These directly tie to new revenue opportunities.

Facebook is clearly still more focused on Open Graph adoption and the user experience these apps generate – more than a year after unveiling the Open Graph at f8 in September 2011. But the company will actively seek to monetize the data generated by the massive activity (one billion Open Graph actions were being shared daily as of June!) and convert this organic content into dynamic and effective advertising use cases.

Case in point: The app install, app used/game played, and app shared ad types were, for a long time, the only options for growing an app’s user base via paid Facebook media. Yet Facebook recently deprecated the “app used” story option, and its beta mobile app ad unit, which provides a user acquisition-oriented product for mobile developers, serves a fundamentally different need (and has yet to be released broadly). Open Graph sponsored stories, and the overarching action spec targeting functionality, are the most viable method of amplifying organic user activity on apps and external web sites with paid media and leveraging high-intent, recent, deeply social user activity to achieve advertisers’ objectives.

Action spec targeting is only available via the ads API for now, but expect it to be rolled out more broadly once Facebook is satisfied with the trajectory of the Open Graph app ecosystem and ready to capitalize on its potential as it matures.

– Kushal Kadakia

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Kushal Kadakia
Kushal Kadakia is media analyst at Ampush, a technology-driven online marketing agency in San Francisco. Ampush drives billions of social ad impressions per month for large-scale brand marketers and agency partners across a range of verticals including technology, financial services, gaming, retail, travel, and consumer packaged goods. Follow Kushal and his colleagues on the Ampush blog at