I read an interesting article on the US Postal Service’s financial problems today.  It turns out that it’s not the Internet that’s sent the Postal Service nose-diving into debt, it’s activist anti-union machinations.  I probably wouldn’t have known about the distortion of the postal service’s budget caused by the prepaid health benefits 75 years into the future if my friend hadn’t posted the article on Facebook.  I would have been vaguely aware that the Postal Service was having problems, that it vaguely smacked of the whole rightward swing this country still seems to be going through.  But I would not have been really informed on the issue.

Due to the fact that my friend considered this issue important enough to broadcast, I considered the information that he shared enough to look into, and to re-post.  This is what Seth Godin refers to as ‘The New Tribalism.’  It’s the new way that information spreads in the terminally over saturated data-scape of our 24 hour news cycle.

The whole post-office info-sharing incident recalled to my mind how, years ago, I would have to call someone up on the phone or send them a letter through snail-mail to tell them about something important.  And many granular issues, like– “I’m concerned about what is happening with the postal service”–would have slipped through the cracks.

For anyone who was working at a non-profit years ago, they can pretty much attest to the fact that email revolutionized the approach of non-profits to their allies (and donors).  It changed the game.  And there is still a place for email marketing in ethical non-profit type causes.  But there is another revolution that’s underway:

Social Media will change how we market ethical causes in a way that will make the quantum leap from snail mail to email look like hopscotch.

The Open Graph system that was rolled out last week is going to change the way that ethical causes are marketed.

Below I’ll list three reasons that I’m really excited about Open Graph.  They may seem nebbish, but the reason that I’m excited about these features has to do with the kind of new efficiencies that they’ll create when we’re trying to make ethical causes go viral:

1. Open Graph allows for a new type of data transmission that deepens the Facebook experience by pulling pertinent information to the fore, making it visible to those with whom you wish to share it

. All your activity is logged into the the Ticker (with your permission, of course). So say you volunteer for the charity Child’s Play. If you want to increase the visibility of that organization’s information for your friends to see, your Ticker will display that info to the groups with which you share you share it. So if you want to highlight a cause Each person who sees this small activity, can click on the notification and learn more about the organization. This will lead to increased awareness and hopefully more people participating in important causes.

2.  Open Graph allows the Timeline feature to emphasize and categorize our passions, pulling touching causes and salient information into sharp focus

. Facebook will be reaching back into your past content submissions and organizing relevant items by date, with fewer but more high profile events being shown the further back you look. You’ll have the option of manually entering your past information, which is something Facebook is counting on. They’re hoping that, by giving you a mostly-empty timeline, you’ll be prompted to enter some important events or causes from your past and share them with friends. The more involved you were with a group or cause, the more prominent that will be in your Timeline and the more likely it is that your friends will see it.

3. Open Graph will simplify development of Facebook apps by using a single Application Programming Interface (API)

. Previously, developers would have to use multiple protocols to perform simple actions, like logging users into their service or posting content to their profile, but now the process has been simplified. Apps can be built for integration with Facebook on a Canvas page for use within the Facebook site or can be integrated into the company’s website while making use of Facebook’s platform. This will reduce both development cost and time, enabling more non-profits to make use apps by reducing the cost of entry.

Through deft use of this trifecta created through Open Graph, HTML5 and Facebook, the potential growth in awareness for and participation in ethical causes is exciting. I am really looking forward to seeing the innovative ways that social issues will be marketed with the new functionality that Facebook Timeline offers.

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