Here’s a quick experiment for you – swap your TikTok credentials with one of your friends or someone in your family and compare the posts that appear on their feed with yours. You’ll realise that they’re completely different posts that appear on theirs. You might have never seen some faces ever before. This isn’t true just for TikTok but for YouTube and e-commerce websites such as Amazon as well. It is because these platforms work on something called the Interest Graph.
The interest graph is something completely different from the social graph that Facebook uses. Social networking platform Facebook shows everything on your feed on the basis of everything that it knows about you. Take a deep dive into what a social graph and an interest graph is, how they work, what platforms use which type of graphs and how they use the data we provide them with, for good or for worse. Let’s begin with the basics.
What is a social graph?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Facebook has piles and piles of data on you. It knows who you are, where you live, who your friends are, what you guys do together, your family members and other information like what posts you’ve “liked”, what kind of content you engage with, what products you have bought in the past and what services you’ve shown interest towards. Facebook collects all these data points and much more to create your social graph.
The thought process behind the social graph is that people are more likely to like something their friends or family members like. You can think of it as an online and personalised recommendation from a friend. So, if Will likes a restaurant, that particular restaurant can create a personalized ad on the social platform telling you that Will likes it, in a hope to grab your attention and make it more likely to get a click from you.
This is Facebook’s business and revenue model in a nutshell. The platform lets advertisers take a dive into the audience’s social graph and deliver personalised, more meaningful and compelling ads. The social graph works like a charm until you are friends with someone who has completely different interests.
Let’s say you are someone who is interested in the stock market and you’re friends with someone who loves sports. This is the Achilles heel of the social graph because it isn’t always safe, or profitable, to assume that you like everything that your friends do. Here’s where the interest graph steps in.
What is an interest graph?
Interest graphs essentially link users and their interests to show them posts, products and recommendations that best suit their personality. Simply put, an interest graph is the network of people that share the same interests connected via the products and collections they like.
mechanism works on creating a taste or interest profile that matches you with the recommendations and likes not of your social network, but of people who have similar tastes and interests.
The interest and interest graph of any user is based on their profile, personality, education, location, profession and so on. The lifetime or shelf life of the interest is another crucial factor to consider while building the graph. Some interests last longer like painting and singing whereas some have a shorter life span like a song, movie or an article. Therefore, understanding the interest of any given user is a continuous, and not a one-time activity.
In order to get a hold of the user’s personality and interests, the website or platform tracks the users likes and dislikes and creates the users’ interest profile. Once your behaviour begins to match the behaviour of a set of users, the website/platform will start sending you suggestions and recommendations based on what people from that set usually show interest in.
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 Dataportal (2020) “Global Social Media Overview” [Online] Available from: https://datareportal.com/social-media-users [Accessed September 2020]
  SensorTower (2020) “TikTok Crosses 2 Billion Downloads After Best Quarter For Any App Ever” [Online] Available from: https://sensortower.com/blog/tiktok-downloads-2-billion [Accessed September 2020]
 YouTube (2020) “YouTube for Press” [Online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/about/press/ [Accessed September 2020]
Image 1: Pixabay
Image 3: Collision Conf