The Social Graph and the Interest Graph: “Who You Know” meets “What You Are Interested In.”

With the huge impact and growth that Pinterest has had lately, it’s no wonder the concept of the “interest graph” was front and center at this year’s SXSW. You may have heard of the “social graph” - the digital map of people you are connected to, your friends, family, colleagues, peers and classmates. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are some of the top places where the “Who You Know” social graph comes to life. The interest graph on the other hand, is a digital map of “What You Are Interested In” - curated actions that show who you really are at a personal level-- what you like, what you read, and, generally, what kind of person you are. Your interest graph grows and changes based on the actions you take: likes, pins, ratings, blog posts, reviews, hearts, shares, reblogs, follows, lists you create, and what you search for across the Internet.

The connection of your social graph with your interest graph is the next frontier for the digital world. Sites and services that can connect these two worlds authentically, seamlessly and with privacy in mind will be the future online leaders and offer the best platforms for brands to connect to people in the most personal way. Google+ Circles and Google Search plus Your World offer powerful ways to connect what your are interested in with your social network and Facebook recently launched “Interest Lists”, a feature that lets you curate interests, discover others and share them with friends. This is nothing new for Twitter - they have been at the forefront of socially curated interest lists for a while now, offering the ability to follow topics you care about and recommend lists of people/topics you are interested in, even if they are not in your immediate social network. The era of interest based hyper-personalization is upon us and this goes way beyond curating lists and sharing them with friends. This is the promise of the most relevant and personalized experience possible, all based around your interests and your network.   

Why The Interest Graph is Critical for Your Brands Success

For brands the big question is: how to you convert interest into action? Brands are interests, so it makes perfect sense that the interest graph should become the key driver and connection point to customers, but the interest graph must work with the social graph to help the process of discovery, trust and spreadabilty. Imagine a world were you can truly market to people based on what they actually are interested in and use the power of their social connections to drive purchase. Some of the latest underutilized tools that Facebook has released is a step in the right direction and many brands currently target their Facebook ads to people that “like” certain topics. Amazon does a terrific job at mining data and marketing towards our interests based on our purchases, ratings and browsing habits, but socially they are not very strong. Pinterest is a very easy way to curate, collect and share images based on your interests but marketers are just beginning to figure out how to harness the power of this platform and we are just getting started and there is much work to be done to fully realize the power of both graphs coming together. 

Author Jon Cronin is Managing Director of Social Engagement at Citizen Paine. He is a digital veteran and social media thought leader; and has been on the forefront of developing digital marketing programs and social strategies for leading companies for his entire 17-year career. In his current role, he leads Citizen Paine’s global social engagement practice, which includes driving senior-level social thought leadership, leading overall social strategy and growing client business. He lives in Brooklyn, with his beautiful and talented wife is also an active participant and influencer within the digital community, with thousands following his blogs and Twitter streams on a daily basis.

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