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Interest Graphs: The Next Big Thing in Social Media.

authored by Amy Paxson

I attended the FutureM conference in Boston last month, much of which, not surprisingly, focused on social media.  I’ve been thinking about interest graphs ever since.  Clearly, this is the new frontier for social media marketing.  Social media sites, such as Facebook, currently leverage a social graph.  A social graph consists of WHO you know.  And to date, that’s how marketers have used social media:  I can target Amy, and therefore I can reach Amy’s friends.  But WHO you know doesn’t translate into WHAT you like.

Most us have an eclectic mix of Facebook friends – Mine include my kids, friends of my kids, people I work with, people I knew in high school that I haven’t seen in 30 years, and my 82-year-old mother.  How much could I possibly have in common with these people? Just because I’m friends with someone doesn’t mean I share their interests. (Bedazzled jewel players, I’m talking to you.)

Think of how much more valuable it is to a marketer to know that I like Starbucks coffee, musical theater, and Anita Shreve novels.  Targeting via an interest graph is far more useful than a social graph.  Interest graphs are generated by the feeds customers follow on Twitter, products they buy online, ratings they create on sites like Yelp or Netflix, and items they search for on search engines.

Some marketers, like Amazon and Netflix, are already suggesting future purchases based on your previous buying and/or reviews.  Capturing the data and capitalizing on interest graphs will separate the next online market giants from the also-rans. Right now, the challenge is that this data exists for each of us in multiple unconnected places – The books I order on Amazon don’t ever sync with the movies I select on Netflix to create one big “aha” of understanding about me.   But with the speed online marketing is evolving, my guess is that it won’t be too long until it does.