Monday, January 17, 2011

Facebook Pages, and why we know that you probably like Lady Gaga.

The Idea
Ever since Facebook rolled out pages in 2007, it has become very easy for users to show their interest in music, film, books, artists and other entities in various categories by clicking the "like" button on a specific facebook page. Most of the time, the information about your personal “likes” is not protected automatically and therefore can therefore accessed by everyone, even if not logged in.
We know that Mark Zuckerberg likes the Yankees and is a fan of Jay-Z, but that might just be of interest to his friends or People magazine. But there is much more information that we can infer from the social graph. Can Barack Obama know about the preferred beverages or favorite books of his fans? He can! ...but he probably doesn' t care. With the information provided by Facebook’s social graph it is easy to identify connections between books, films or brands - without conducting a survey.
The Data
Building a network by linking two pages, depending on the frequency of their occurrence on the same user profile produces graphs like the following.

The fact that people are providing this rich information creates different opportunities for analysis. Surely Facebook is already taking advantage of their data, but in social science and marketing user behaviour could be analysed. Certainly the advertising industry could benefit from, and would pay money for, such demographic information.
Demo Prototype
This web application illustrates a potential use of the data, which is based on 20 000 public Facebook profiles from different countries. An underlying bipartite “user to page” relation is used as a data source.

You can navigate through the TagCloud by clicking on a random entity. Different colors indicate categories (film, books, music, interests, other). The average of other pages listed in categories for the current page can be seen in the middle graph. The last graph shows the relative percentage of users liking this page in different countries.
It gives you a broad idea of the structure, though the current data is not representative of all Facebook users as the data was crawled from just 8 countries.
The key findings from this visualization:
  • The most popular pages are so commonly liked that they do not give a strong indication of individual personalities. E.g. Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Barack Obama.
  • Clicking through less popular pages reveals the “long tail” of Facebook pages with interesting cliques, and connections between them. E.g. Conservatives in the U.S. or Movie Fans.
  • Brand awareness and popularity in specific countries, e.g. Nutella in Italy can be observed.
So, if you want to stand out among those 500 million Facebook users, just don't like Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson or Barack Obama.

Facebook Pages - Categories

The chart below shows how categories of Facebook pages are used in different countries.
On average, users from Great Britain and the United States list twice as many pages in their profiles than users from Brazil. Furthermore, differences in certain categories can be identified. Listing books or activities seems to be very unpopular, in contrast to pages in the music or TV categories.