Dissecting Facebook’s Topic Data: What Consumers & Brands Need to Know


At long last, some 1.5 million brands on Facebook will soon get access to the vast amounts of data that has been stored with the launch of the platform’s Topic Data offering. By licensing the data to DataSift, Facebook will use Topic Data to give brands in the US and UK a wealth of insights to better-understand how people are talking about or using their products. Data that includes users’ public and private information, hashtags, links, comments, likes and shares will all be aggregated and anonymized and served to brands on a silver platter.

First, consider the power of this statement:

  • Facebook now has 1.393 billion users.
  • There are 890 million daily users spending on average 21 minutes per day.
  • While Instagram isn’t part of this initial roll-out, the Facebook sibling presents advertisers with the potential future promise of data from those 300 million users as well.

What does this mean for Facebook consumers?

The first concern to be addressed is user privacy. The launch of Topic Data comes at an interesting time, given the frequency of news surrounding security breaches at banks, retailers and insurance companies of late. Just look at this infographic to illustrate the biggest hacks: will Facebook users balk at the idea of more of their personal — and private — information being shared?

Facebook’s privacy policies carry a history negative conversations amongst consumers. However, the daily personal impact on users is negligible with this new partnership with DataSift. Facebook claims all of the data will be anonymized, which is a great step forward for privacy when compared to the vast amounts of very identifiable personal data it currently holds on users and uses to sell ads.

That said, the next hurdle consumers will grapple with is the public versus private information sharing. While Facebook will not view actual private photos or posts, it will analyze and share this data in aggregate form. It begs the question: Is analyzing Facebook users’ private data – even if the name is sanitized – a breach of policy and public trust on Facebook’s part? It’s a fair question marketers must address when capitalizing on these new insights.

What value does this present brands?

As for brand marketers, the value lies in the data. And data is Facebook’s sweet spot. Our friends, family, lifestyles, likes, dislikes, eating habits and emotional states are available for Facebook to mine. What’s more, the rise of mobile devices adds to this massive trove of personal information by delivering location-based data insights. While the data isn’t personally identifiable to DataSift, it still presents actionable research possibilities for today’s brand or product marketer. 

For example, Facebook provided the example of a hair product manufacturer that can learn which people complain about frizzy hair in certain weather conditions. By acquiring these new insights, a product marketer can better target the ads it serves its audience by creating more relevant and engaging conversations around its product.

This comes at a pivotal time for Facebook marketers. The platform recently changed its algorithms and subsequently caused a huge decline in organic reach, with a shocking 41 percent of Facebook pages losing more than half of their organic reach. Access to new Topic Data insights will result in better targeting, as brands will be now able to leverage key words and phrases, identify new audiences and use this information for better targeting to help recover from the recent loss of organic reach.                                   

It is our philosophy that social media should draw users back to a brand’s owned media channels. And new Topic Data, coupled with Facebook advertising, represents huge potential for driving traffic to a brand’s website, something Pinterest (one of Facebook’s biggest competitors) does in its sleep. Smarter data married with great content could be just the thing brands have been looking for in order to fall in love with Facebook again. 

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