LikeEveryday we come across things we like, but rarely do we acknowledge them with a raise of the thumb. You wouldn’t walk in to you local branch of Waterstone’s, say, and start giving your favourite book the ‘thumbs up’, would you? No, you would probably buy it and read it.

The opposite can be said for the word’s favourite social network, Facebook, which until now has restricted its users to a ‘thumbs up’ or nothing at all when it comes to acknowledging things they, well, like.

However, at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday evening, Facebook threw the social world a huge curveball by confirming the arrival of ‘Actions’, a feature that’s been a hot talking point since Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference last year.

Actions, like the name suggests, are a new way of interacting with things we come into contact with everyday, evolving beyond the current ‘like’ feature that we all know and love.

Let’ use the humble book as an example.

Say you buy a book from an online book vendor. You read the book and you enjoy it so much that you feel inclined to share your new found enthusiasm for said book with your Facebook friends. Currently you have two choices, either compose a status update a la “I just read <insert book name here> and it’s totally awesome”, or you could ‘Like’ it. The latter method has always seemed a little woolly.

For the sake of example, Facebook’s new Actions will allow you, the book fan, to communicate your book buying and reading habits via more relevant ‘Like’ alternatives, such as ‘Own’, or ‘Read’.

You may also start to see your friends ‘Eating’, ‘Playing’ or even ‘Knitting’, for example.

Of course, Facebook has already introduced a few actions, including ‘Listen’, which ties in with Spotify and more recently ‘Watched’, to accommodate the recent UK launch of Netflix. Both of these actions go relatively unnoticed, however expect to start seeing some more absurd gestures in the near future.

Actions will be displayed in the Ticker – the mini feed that sits in upper-right corner of the Facebook homepage and serves up recent activity in real-time. Initially the Ticker was badly received, mainly because no one really saw the point of it. However, your friends’ Actions activity will bypass the newsfeed and be displayed in the Ticker, arguably making it a little more interesting.

Developers using Facebook’s Open Graph can start using Actions now to help enhance the way that users interact with brands, products or services, but there are of course limitations. For example, the verbs used to reflect actions must “represent an actual action the user took at that time” and hateful or sexually explicit language is strictly forbidden.

There’s no denying that Actions present some potentially exciting opportunities for marketers, as well as offer Facebook users a totally new way of sharing information with their peers. But will Actions result in information-overload?

For more information about Facebook’s Open Graph visit developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraph.