We knew there was a reason the Facebook personal profile API was so limited.
A few months ago we were approached to build a Facebook app that would collect data about the conversations taking place in a persons personal Facebook stream. The goal of the app was to help someone identify who they were having conversations with and who they were not. It would alert the user to communicate with someone if they hadn’t poked, commented, like or messaged them in a period of days or months. It was something we had talked about internally and at conferences many times, so we set out to create it.
Not so fast. I’ll reserve comment on the sketchy documentation in the Facebook API, that only slowed the process. But after several attempts, it quickly became apparent that Facebook was purposefully limiting access to certain actions in the personal stream. We could not track, for example, we could not successfully pull back the correct number of “likes” on videos and photos. And we found this reported by many in the developer forums. While those are seemingly insignificant actions, the simple press of a button, not being able to get to that kind of data made creating an accurate picture of interaction impossible. So we stopped trying.
Listening As A Strategy
I’ve been speaking a great deal recently at various conferences about listening in the social media space and writing about the need for better listening tools. I try to make the best use of what’s available. Example: I use Facebook’s friends list feature extensively. It helps me segment conversations and listen with intent. When I ask audiences if they use it, the vast majority answer “no.” Mark Zuckerberg confirms my anecdotal findings in the video below.
Tell me who my friends really are.
Last week I spoke in Virginia and related our Facebook app story to the audience. I said at that time that an effective form of social CRM would be a killer app. In truth, no matter how many “friends” you have on Facebook, you only communicate with a small subset of those friends. Who do I pay the most attention to? Who pays the most attention to me? Who pays no attention to me at all? This is valuable information, especially if I’m attempting to be somewhat purposeful in my networking.
The value of identifying the connections in the social graph has not been lost on the Facebook team. They want to control the social graph. They’ve been mapping our conversations without the limitations of their API all along and have created “an index for each relationship.” And they are now ready to tell us who our friends really are.
I’m actually looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with, whether I like it or not. Are you?