Does your marketing need a customer graph?

The relentless rise of social networks in recent years has made many marketers familiar with the concept of the social graph—data about how people are connected to one another—and its power in a marketing context.

Facebook’s social graph has propelled it to a projected annual revenue of around $40B for 2017, driven primarily by advertising sales. Advertisers are prepared to pay a premium for the advanced targeting capabilities that the graph enables, especially when combined with their own customer data; these capabilities will enable Facebook to snag over 20% of digital ad spend in the US this year.

Partly as a result of this, many marketers are thinking about how they can exploit the connectedness of their own customer base, beyond simple “refer a friend” campaigns. Additionally, it’s very common to hear marketing services outfits tack the term graph onto any discussion of user or customer data, leading one to conclude that any marketing organization worth its salt simply must have a graph database.

But what is a graph, and how is it different from a plain old customer database? And if you don’t have a customer graph in your organization, should you get one?

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