The past decade has included a massive surge of improvements and advancements to the way consumers carry on their digital lives.

Here we are in 2012, everyone is connected, and everyone is sharing more and more online every day. Social networking sites reach 82% of the world's online population—that's 1.2 billion users worldwide!

Consumers have now become a brand's most influential stakeholder, wielding the ability to influence friends and peers significantly more than advertisers can. That shift in power has caused a corresponding transformation in social networks and how brands use them to engage with and market to consumers.

Facebook's Open Graph, for one, is a formidable force that is changing the way brands and consumers interact. As 2013 approaches, more brands will try to quantify the ROI of their Facebook marketing investments, and the Open Graph provides significant new marketing opportunities to do just that.

Brands can engage with consumers both on and off Facebook, broadcast consumer stories across Facebook, and drive awareness and word-of-mouth (WOM). Brands can also buy Facebook Sponsored Stories to improve the performance of their advertising on Facebook and test the convergence of media types.

Let's take a look at the five ways that Facebook's Open Graph will have an impact marketing and how a particular children's retailer used the Open Graph to drive massive brand awareness and engagement.

1. Moving Beyond the 'Like'

With Facebook's Open Graph, brands can now create relationships and interactions with consumers that are contextually relevant. For example, a wine distributor can enable users to "recommend" or "taste" a wine, a fashion brand can allow users to "want" a pair of shoes or "own" a dress.

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image of Brad Klaus

Brad Klaus is CEO of Extole, a leader in consumer-to-consumer social marketing, providing a Social Advocacy Platform for brands to tap into the power of customer advocates to drive measurable marketing results via social word-of-mouth.