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How Payvment Uses Facebook's Expanded Open Graph

Moving beyond 'like,' Payvment has added 'want' and 'own' buttons to its social stores.

What does it mean when a Facebook user clicks "like" on an item for sale--that they have it and like it, or that they would like to have it?

Christian Taylor was never quite sure, even though he is CEO of Payvment, operator of an e-commerce Shopping Mall that functions as a Facebook app.

"'Like' never worked for us the way it worked for other mediums," Taylor said. Liking a link to a news story or video may be fairly clear, but in shopping, "'like' is ambiguous," he said. That's why the expanded vocabulary of Open Graph actions Facebook announced recently was so important, he said. As part of a select group of Facebook application developers working with the company on pilot projects over the past few months, Payvment was able to define "want" and "own" buttons that now appear next to each product listing (although "like" is still there, too, for those who prefer to use it).

Open Graph is Facebook's model for integrating external applications and allowing them to execute authorized actions against user and business accounts. At the same time that it introduced its new Timeline user profile in September, Facebook introduced a handful of new Open Graph verbs, primarily to allow media sites to post to the news feed when someone read an article or listened to a particular song. Some of these also took advantage of a "frictionless sharing" model, in which, for example, Spotify will automatically post to the Timeline every song the user listens to through the service.

[Ready? Or not? See Facebook Timeline: 5 Facts You Need To Know]

Payvment wanted to define Open Graph actions that would make sense in a shopping context, but without making them "frictionless."

"It can't work like Spotify because of privacy issues," Taylor said. "We designed it so that any actions posted to the timeline or the news feed meant the user had to click a button."

Facebook worked closely with Payvment to make sure there would be no repeat of Beacon, a social shopping feature Facebook introduced in 2007 and withdrew when users protested it was sharing data about their online purchases without their consent. "This could be a replay of Beacon, if done wrong," Taylor said.

The new "want" button functions as a sort of social wish list, something that friends might consult ahead of a birthday or other occasion. Taylor said he wasn't sure shoppers would take the time to click "own," but it turns out many will, in search of bragging rights.

"I don't think people are going to click a button to say they use that deodorant, but if they just bought an iPad, this lets them show off," he said.

Facebook is starting to approve new Open Graph verbs as part of a more routine process, open to all developers. Taylor said Payvment would like to put more such applications in place--for example, to signal when a user has posted a product review.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

Social media are generating tons of data, but that data only becomes truly valuable when examined in context. Attend the virtual Enterprise 2.0 event Social Analytics: The Bridge To Business Value, and learn how social analytics will provide the bridge to unlocking business value. It happens Feb. 16.

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