Facebook Tells Marketers About What Users Are Saying

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Facebook announced that it is going to begin offering topic data to marketers in an effort to let businesses get a better idea of what people are saying about their products on Facebook, so they can better optimize their strategies.

Would you, as a business, like to get ahold of this data? As a user, are you okay with Facebook using what you say in this way? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Topic data informs marketers about what people are saying about events, brands, subjects, and activities. It looks at both public and private user posts. Any post that isn't set to be shared with "only me," is fair game, based on what a Facebook exec reportedly told Re/code. Don't freak out though. While Facebook may be selling what you're saying in your private posts to marketers, it's on a completely anonymized basis. They're not selling you the person. They're just selling what you said as if any random person said it. Kind of. Even what you said is analyzed and interpreted before being passed on to marketers.

Facebook says, "We are not disclosing personally identifying information to anyone, including our partners and marketers. And, the results delivered to marketers are analyses and interpretations of the information, not actual topic data."

Facebook makes a point to note that it's not utilizing Messenger for this. It also notes that while topic data can give marketers a lot of guidance, it can't be used to target ads directly.

"Marketers want to understand what people think about topics related to their business, so they can make their products and marketing more relevant to their customers," says Facebook in a blog post. "In the past they’ve looked at the things people share online to get an idea of what people care about, but, until now, the information available offered a limited view...Marketers use the information from topic data to make better decisions about how they market on Facebook and other channels, and build product roadmaps....While this type of data has been available from third parties before, the sample size was often too small to be significant and determining demographics was nearly impossible."

"A business selling a hair de-frizzing product can see demographics on the people talking about humidity’s effects on their hair to better understand their target audience," it says. "A fashion retailer can see the clothing items its target audience is talking about to decide which products to stock. A brand can see how people are talking about their brand or industry to measure brand sentiment."

Facebook has partnered with DataSift on the offering You may know DataSift as a Twitter partner, which provides Twitter's firehose to third-parties, though it count over 20 social, news, and blog networks among its partners. Facebook says it's using the company's technology to power the platforms that turn the data into insights.

"The partnership with Facebook leverages DataSift’s technology to aggregate and deliver summary results from topic data, enabling developers to build innovative marketing applications that surface insights into what audiences are saying on Facebook," says DataSift's Nick Halstead. "We believe there is limitless potential for how Facebook topic data can help marketers – from researching the latest fashion trends to identifying the next big thing."

DataSift is already working with companies like Oracle, Sysomos, and Hootsuite on Facebook Topic Data.

“We have been successfully working with DataSift to provide our customers with social data insights into their businesses for years," says Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes. "We are very excited about Facebook topic data and its potential to elevate social media monitoring to a more useful and insightful level.”

Facebook topic data is accessed by way of a new API from DataSift called Pylon, which marketers to reach out to the company about. Facebook itself says it's still figuring out all the different ways topic data can help marketers, and is only offering it to DataSift partners in the US and UK. It will even be limited to select partners in those countries at first. As time goes on, Facebook will expand availability.

Just know that these days, the things you say on Facebook carry more weight than ever before, even if you never know the extent of it. Not only may it be used to shape some company's strategy, it's also searchable as of December.

Some think Facebook is actually listening to the things you say outloud via your smartphone's microphone, but that "has no basis in fact," according to the company, despite a bunch of creepy stories.

What do you think of Facebook topic data? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.