The Identity Graph: What Every Marketer Needs to Know

The identity graph.

It’s the data foundation for modern marketing. It powers identity resolution. Supercharges your CDP, MDM and DMP (holy acronyms!). And it allows you to meet growing consumer demands for personalized, omnichannel customer experiences—all while protecting data privacy.

But what IS an identity graph? It’s still fuzzy for a lot of marketers, so we’re here to clear that up.

What is an identity graph?

At the simplest, an identity graph is a database of all the little pieces of information we know about any given person, unified into a privacy protected, single customer view.

You can think of it like tons of contact fragments—names, hashed emails, device IDs, website visits, transactions, etc.—with connections between them. A grouping of fragments and the connections between them represent a person, formed in the graph.

If you want to get technical about it, an ID graph is actually a collection of nodes and edges. The nodes are contact fragments and the edges are the connections between them.

Looking for an identity graph example? Visualized, an identity graph looks like this:

Abstract image of an identity graph, a photo of a man using a cell phone and laptop, and icons representing contact fragments such as names, contact information, hashed emails, device IDs, website visits, social networks, transactions, and more.

What kind of information is in an ID graph?

Identity graphs can collect billions of data points. Common identifiers an ID graph may include:

There are also frequently undeclared identifiers, such as:

  • Membership in an email or subscriber list
  • Demographics
  • Purchases/transactions
  • Visits to online news sites
  • Surveys
  • Voter registration
  • Motor vehicle records
  • Other financial and digital behaviors

How does an identity graph work?

The identity graph serves as the backbone of identity resolution.

The identity resolution process relies on this identity graph to associate pieces of information with a person, learn more about that person, and reach that person across devices and channels.

1. Unify your customer data

First, the graph allows you to unify all of your first-party data and associate it with a real person. This includes integrating online and offline data.

Then the technology obfuscates any personally identifiable information (PII) and provides you with a unique, person-level identifier, like FullContact’s PersonID. You can use this ID to accurately identify this person moving forward and collect more identifiers for each ID as customers interact with your brand.

Let’s say you have an email address of someone that signed up for your travel newsletter. Enter it into the graph, and you can see that it’s the same person that browsed for vacation rentals in Turks and Caicos with an alternate email address. And they also reached out via your chat feature with a question about cancellation policies.

When this person shows up on your site again and looks at more rental properties, the information is easily appended to the customer profile.

2. Enrich people with new insights

The second step is to add to what you know about each person by enriching the customer profile. Once you have resolved your data to a real person, the graph can give you all kinds of additional insights about that person.

For example, the person that signed up for your newsletter is actually 36-year-old Lena, she has a husband and two children in her home, and she often vacations somewhere warm in February. This information helps you to more effectively segment your audiences and personalize their experiences.

3. Amplify your reach

Finally, identity allows you to reach people in more places. Before, you only had Lena’s email address. Now, you can also reach her via phone, her social handles, and her physical mailing address.

Thanks to the identity graph, you also know she frequents her weather app and does a ton of streaming on Roku—and you can reach her via those channels, too.

Deterministic matching versus probabilistic matching

How do we know which pieces of data belong to which person? The fragments—or identifiers—in an ID graph are tied to the unified customer profile with various degrees of certainty, but the best identity graphs rely on deterministic matching.

The difference between deterministic matching and probabilistic matching comes down to confidence and accuracy.

    • Deterministic matching is based on what you know to be true. There are no assumptions or inferences involved about who someone is or what identifiers belong to them. Deterministic identity resolution therefore offers a high degree of confidence that you’ve resolved the right data to each customer profile.
    • Probabilistic matching is based on what you predict to be true, based on predictive modeling. With probabilistic identity resolution, you will have varying levels of statistical confidence, based on which models have been used in the process. You may achieve scale with probabilistic matching, but you’ll sacrifice some accuracy.

When it comes to delivering highly personalized, omnichannel marketing, deterministic matching will always provide the better identity resolution.

What’s a private identity graph?

Some identity graph providers require you to pour your own first-party data into their graph in order to access their graph functionality. This gives other parties access to your data and presents a variety of privacy and security risks.

A private identity graph, or FullContact Private Identity Cloud™, does not require sharing your data with others for derivative uses. Your data is encrypted, stored, and resolved to a persistent PersonID, and you retain control over your data assets.

Companies can even use a variety of Private Identity Clouds to keep certain data sets separate. For example, a financial services marketing agency may want to keep client financial institutions’ data separate.

Benefits of an identity graph?

Why bother with an identity graph? There are a bunch of valuable uses cases, but here are a few of the top benefits.

    1. Do better, people-based marketing. Relying on an identity graph allows you to more effectively target, personalize and measure your marketing. You can understand and improve the full customer journey.
    2. Build identity resolution into your martech solutions. Marketers are tired of martech proliferation. Easily integrate an API-based ID graph into your existing technology to add insights—while keeping things simple.
    3. Safeguard your customer data. Respect data privacy and reduce access to PII while maintaining the relevance of your marketing and advertising.

Get to know FullContact’s identity graph

Our identity graph is the world’s first and only real-time graph, connecting people and brands in the moments that matter. Key features and benefits of our graph include:

1. People-based identity

The relationship between brands and people should be more meaningful than a single identifier, so we match and provide insights about the whole person.

As individuals constantly evolve—moving between locations, getting new cell phones, resetting their Mobile Ad IDs, changing their name, etc.—our graph evolves with them, learning over time to recognize their evolving identities.

2. Extensive identifiers

Our identity graph includes over 50 billion personal and professional identity fragments, which can all be used to identify an individual person. And the graph is always growing.

Infographics describing the personal and professional identity fragments included in our identity graph. Our identity graph includes: 50+ billion identity fragments. 100% U.S. postal addresses. 1+ billion mobile ad IDs (MAIDs). 170+ million phone numbers. 2+ billion social accounts.

Take a look at some of the other identifiers available in our graph’s data ecosystem.

3. Deterministic matching

There’s no guessing happening in our identity graph. You can count on the accuracy of your customer profiles to power highly relevant campaigns.

We invented a confidence algorithm to efficiently and accurately measure an identity’s trustworthiness—and we even blend intelligent patented processes and algorithms with what we call the Human in the Loop process. Our own real people augment the data matching process to validate the accuracy of our graph.

It’s so accurate, our identity graph is used for fraud-related identity verification applications.

4. Real-time results

As the first and only real-time identity graph, our APIs can get you the customer data you need in milliseconds—so you can deliver the experiences customers expect.

But for maximum flexibility, we also support your batch requests, processing hundreds of millions of your records within a day, joining each record to the graph to help you understand your customers better. No dataset is too big.

5. Built for privacy and security

Brands and customers should always be in control of their own data—and confident that it’s secure. FullContact offers a Private Identity Cloud which allows brands to benefit from identity resolution while safeguarding their first-party data.

FullContact also invests in and maintains the highest level of data security, including SOC 2 Type II certification. We’ve implemented processes and technologies around:

    • Data encryption
    • Controlled access to sensitive data
    • Employee training
    • Rigorous background checks

We take data privacy so seriously that we have chosen to comply with CCPA and GDPR requirements. We believe these guidelines should apply to everyone—not just those individuals who fall under the geographical protections. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.

Looking for a graph to power your business?

Get in touch to learn more about integrating FullContact’s identity graph into your tech stack.

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