What everyone in Silicon Valley and “Venture Land” conceive of as the real game-changing model involves capturing and capitalizing on the “interest graph. 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.
The above paragraph comes from a year-old post in Tech Crunch, following last winter’s Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. It was a prescient sentiment for sure.
Just look at the current landscape. The new emerging social platforms are less about the social graph and all about the interest graph. Pinterest, Springpad, Svpply. We’re seeing an evolution from people centric social media (who I am connected with) to interest centric social media (what I care about, want to buy, hope to do.) Users are jumping on platforms like these and others in part because they make it so easy to express one’s self by posting stuff you like or find interesting. Add in the fun of discovery and the rewards of sharing and it’s likely we’ll see accelerated user growth.
For brand and marketers, this is good news. It’s a lot more lucrative to tap into intent and desire than it is to try and penetrate communities where you’re uninvited. Even the best conversation strategists can’t necessarily turn engagement into sales. And it’s become pretty apparent that collecting likes on Facebook will never be the Holy Grail. Just go to any Facebook brand page and take a look at the metric revealed by dividing fans “talking about this,” by those who “like this.” The percentages are typically pretty low. For Harley Davidson half of one percent of fans are paying attention while Old Spice’s number is only slightly higher.
In a recent video Gary Vaynerchuk asks an interesting question. “What’s the Dunbar number for brands?” He notes that most consumers have liked so many brands they don’t even remember which ones. As marketers should know, fans rarely visit a brand’s Facebook page and unless they engage on a regular basis they won’t see brand updates in their stream either. How many brands can we actually have social relationships with? Ten? Twenty? Certainly fewer than the number of people we engage with.
But we can like or want dozens of products and places. Books we want to read, movies we plan to rent, places we hope to visit, restaurants we know we’ll eat at. Offer that up to a marketer and it’s gold. It’s also likely that the right kind of message or alert or incentive to act, served up in a tasteful and polite manner, will be more than welcome.
Expect to see some pretty interesting (no pun intended) developments in 2012. Pinterest may have great momentum, effortlessly converting consumers’ interests into inbound links for the benefitting brand, but there’s more compelling stuff on the horizon. Springpad, a company whose board I serve on, goes beyond interest to identifying deferred intent, then delivering relevant alerts and information that convert interest to action. That’s a benefit for both a user and the brand whose product or service fulfills an obvious desire. Springpad has a slew of significant enhancements coming in February that will make it even more productive and incredibly social.
No doubt there will be others, too. I recently met a new startup called Aditive that offers yet another way to tap into intent. By making online ads social and shareable Aditive encourages readers to share offers with friends who they know might like the product or promotion being offered. When executed right, this simple tactic multiples click-through and effectiveness by a factor of 10 because it’s allowing consumers to identify interests that their friends might have.
In March, I’m on a panel at SxSW to talk about deferred intent and the brand opportunities inherent in social media as the interest graph evolves. Between now and then I’ll probably return to the topic a few times. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and, of course, your interests.
Thanks for reading.
Storify: The Interest Graph