The Interest Graph

Social shopping: the ability to influence via friends, tap into expressed intent, and provide content in the form of utility is the next wave in marketing. It may be a ways off, but it's coming. Everyone is talking about the Interest graph.

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  1. Note: this post is a work in progress

    Imagine if you could identify prospects based on their declared interests?  Travel, books, apparel, electronics. Either because they have pinned them (Pinterest), built a shareable notebook (Springpad), or declared plans or purchases (Svpply). You would then be able to target way more efficiently and also offer content, suggests and offers that you actually know are of interest to people.

    Interesting note:  Home Goods has admitted that after search, Pinterest sends it more traffic than any other source on the web.

    Secondly, the new platforms like Pinterest and Springpad, Nuji and Polyvore also enable brands to create and curate their own content in new and interesting ways and make it available to consumers. So the ability for consumers to "opt-in" gets even easier via discovery rather than just search.

    An airline could create notebooks for each city that it flies to and share with customers and prospects. The notebooks that flyers chose to follow would let airlines and hotels and restaurants know instantly the interests of those travelers.  Same goes for retailers. 

    While the initial followers might be low, this is also a low investment way to experiment in leveraging intent and stimulating social shopping.

    Silicon Valley money right now is looking hard at the interest graph, believing that whoever really cracks it offers a better model to advertisers and therefore a more significant revenue stream. The social graph, which connects people (who, by the way are there to connect with other people and less so brands) may not be as valuable to marketers over the long term. On the other hand, to connect with people who have raised their hand and opted in is far more beneficial. Add to that the eventual possibility of using consumers themselves to help you identify "interests" (after all friends know what friends like) with other emerging platforms such as Additive, which enables socializing online ads that people can send only to friends they know will appreciate an offer or incentive, and tapping into interest gets even more valuable.

    Brands should be dipping their toes now as it's likely this will be huge in another five years.

    This March, I am on a panel at SxSW to talk about deferred intent. Another way of looking at consumers' expressed interests.

  2. Note Two:

     

    From numerous platforms and apps – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare – we are seeing a clear and continued evolution toward making it easier for consumers to declare not just their past or current actions (status updates, check-ins, etc) but their interests (as individuals and as groups) and even future plans or intentions.

     

    There’s Google’s new privacy policy, Facebook actions,

     

    With the likes of Pinterest, people can more easily than ever express their likes, tastes and passions. With apps like Springpad, they can also share what they plan to buy or watch or places they hope to visit or travel to.

     

    Established (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare) and emerging (Pinterest, Springpad, Fab, The Fancy) platforms are collectively making what we call the “interest graph” the next important trend in social media, community, user participation and marketing.

     

    But it’s the latter, by inviting effortless expressions in the form of pins, springs, and shares, that is creating new opportunities for both consumers and marketers.

     

    It’s now easier than ever for consumers to discover things they care about, express their interests, find inspiration from those with like minded passions, and share or publish the content, products and items that reflect those passions.

     

    And as consumers more willingly filter themselves by interest, brands can more effectively focus their messages, content and utility on those who will welcome it.

     

    Better yet, they can begin to identify and “harvest” intent, helping users bridge the gap between discovery and action with useful, timely and relevant information and offers.

     

    The promise for consumers is not only fewer annoying interruptions but alerts, information, price changes that help them make better decisions. The promise for brands and marketers is increased efficiency.

     

    As with all previous social platforms, consumers will embrace the technology on their terms. They’ll use it if it’s easy, rewarding, connects them to the right people, and invites them to shape the experience. They won’t really care whether advertisers or brands show up or not.

     

    Yet brands need four things in order to really take advantage of the interest graph.

     

    A strategy to add value by inspiring discovery and enhancing engagement.

    --that calls for more than simply putting content in the space or adding a button to your site.

     

    The ability to distinguish the difference between a like and an intended action.

    --figuring out how to determine whether people are sharing what they own, or simply think is cool, or  posting what they actually want to buy -- issuing a consumer generated RFI so to speak.

     

    Enough scale to make it worth the effort.

    --ideally a brand wants to be able to market to the data, not simply rely on consumers

     

    A way to measure ROI

    --whatever investment is made in time and money needs to generate a return in recommendations, traffic and sales conversion

     

    As is often the case, technology, consumer behavior and brand understanding don’t all happen at the same time.

     

    Usually the technology appears first, in response to an opportunity or need. Consumer participation shows the developer what works and doesn’t work and begins to define how it gets used. Brands that are paying close attention start to experiment. The majority of marketers show up a year or two later. And often still with the wrong strategies and tactics.

     

    So where are we now?

  3. In order for social networks to truly reshape our experience of the rest of the Web, developers must first understand the relationship between our social graphs and our interest graphs.


    The Social Graph


    A social graph is a digital map that says, "This is who I know." It may reflect people who the user knows in various ways: as family members, work colleagues, peers met at a conference, high school classmates, fellow cycling club members, friend of a friend, etc. Social graphs are mostly created on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, where users send reciprocal invites to those they know, in order to map out and maintain their social ties.


    The Interest Graph


    An interest graph is a digital map that says, "This is what I like." As Twitter's CEO has remarked, if you see that I follow the San Francisco Giants on Twitter, that doesn't tell you if I know the team's players, but it does tell you a lot about my interest in baseball. Interest graphs are generated by the feeds customers follow (e.g. on Twitter), products they buy (e.g. on Amazon), ratings they create (e.g. on Netflix), searches they run (e.g. on Google), or questions they answer about their tastes (e.g. on services like Hunch).

  4. Argument for the Category
  5. Clearly every platform is trying to tap into intereest:  Facebook with likes and understanding
  6. The Interest Graph
  7. Above is my post on the growing emphasis on interest.
  8. What everyone in Silicon Valley and “Venture Land” conceive of as the real game-changing model involves capturing and capitalizing on the “interest graph,” he says. The company that succeeds in doing so would be “close to the Google search paradigm because it would be right in line with demand generation and with discovery that relates to product purposes.” Thus, it is the interest graph that defines the middle ground between Google and Facebook — between search, advertising, and the social graph.


    I think we can be sure that whoever can collect a record of your current interests and package them for advertisers stands to make a lot of money.

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