Social Media: The Social Graph Breaks Free
Social Graph Data Breaks Free
Meanwhile, raw social graph data is becoming available from a range of sources. Many smaller social networking sites offer it for sale directly. However, Facebook, by far the largest and fastest-growing social networking site, does not. A variety of third-party sources like Lotame, Media6degrees, Unbound, 33Across and others have sprung up, each with an ingenious way of extracting social graph data from Facebook and across multiple social networking sites.
But what to do with such data once it's been extracted? Mostly, it's been used to create behavioral targeting segments for use in advertising campaigns that run on the same social network it was gleaned from. Some use social graph data to analyze the flood of conversation and identify the most influential users for a given advertiser to reach out to with a social media marketing campaign.
There is a much more valuable and disruptive use for social graph data. It can—and soon will—be used to optimize the buying of millions of individual ad impressions on the newly minted, real-time ad exchanges.
The Rise of Real-Time
The exchanges are relatively new, but they are quickly becoming an acknowledged threat to the reigning kings of online advertising, the ad networks. Ad networks buy inventory from publishers, aggregate it, group it into content categories and then resell it at scale with a markup as fast as possible before the inventory they bought spoils.
Now, ad exchanges like Google's Ad Exchange 2.0 (released in September), Yahoo's Right Media, Microsoft's AdECN and more plug publishers directly in to a market in which they can offer their entire inventories for auction in real time. When a publisher is plugged in to the ad exchange, each time a visitor goes to the publisher's Web site, advertisers bid for the opportunity to show an ad to that individual visitor.