There's less to Facebook and other social networks than meets the eye.
So begins an article in The Economist (the headline of which I stole for the title of this posting). A social graph is the data which describes your friendship relationships in a social networking site like LinkedIn or FaceBook. Since I have been writing recently on these topics (here and here), I keep my eye open for real journalism on the subject. Later in the article we find something that echoes my own thoughts in those previous postings I referenced:
But unlike other networks, social networks lose value once they go beyond a certain size. [...]
This suggests that the future of social networking will not be one big social graph but instead myriad small communities on the internet to replicate the millions that exist offline. No single company, therefore, can capture the [grand unified] social graph.
However, The Economist finishes off by downplaying the potential marketing value of Facebook and the other social networks. I think this is wrong. I think that marketing in these environments will be immensely valuable through the ability to target users by interest and for users to spread the word through the network. I think that Facebook's own sponsored ads, Facebook flyers, the Causes application and other new opportunities may well outshadow the performance of display ads, but that as a marketing platform Facebook and its ilk will do just fine.