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article imageFeacebook reveals user data to a handful of advertising partners

By Jenna Cyprus     Mar 18, 2015 in Technology
Facebook has access to a wealth of information about its user base, but until recently only a restricted view of that information has been available to advertisers on Facebook’s platform.
Now, in partnership with analytics company DataSift, Facebook is starting to make that big data available to a select few users on its advertising platform.
According to a recent blog post, the analytics tool that will allow this big data to be reviewed by marketers is known as Topic Data, which was developed jointly by Facebook and DataSift. Topic Data, initially available only in the U.S. and U.K., will aggregate information on popular Facebook posts concerning events, brands, activities, and general subjects. Marketers would theoretically use this collected information to form general insights about their target market and tailor their content and social media marketing strategies accordingly.
Facebook elaborates by listing examples of how companies could potentially use this Topic Data; for example, a fashion retailer could review information about trends and clothing being discussed by its target market and then stock products accordingly.
Information on current trends has long been available to those willing to seek it out. However, most of the data from these efforts was gathered by third parties with very small sample sizes. With Facebook aggregating data from its 1.2 billion active users, those sample size biases are practically eliminated.
Concerns over user privacy
Users reading this new development have a fair right to be concerned about their privacy. After all, Facebook will be considering your social media activity in the future as a part of its data provision to marketers. However, Facebook insists that user data will be kept as private as possible; data is going to be both anonymized and aggregated, meaning individual profiles will not be examined, and no personally identifying information will be given to either partners or marketers.
Furthermore, the data given to marketers will not be in the form of raw information. Rather than seeing individual posts and updates in a massive scale, marketers will only be given general trend information and broad insights. In effect, they’ll be given the interpretation of information, rather than the information itself.
Where DataSift comes into play
In addition to helping Facebook develop this Topic Data technology, DataSift will be playing the role of the interpreter in this initial rollout. DataSift will be reviewing the information itself and using its expertise to interpret that data in meaningful ways. As anyone in the big data industry knows, interpreting that large-scale wealth of information in meaningful ways is the hard part.
The landscape of big data in social media
Facebook isn’t the first social media platform to try and use big data to bolster the effectiveness of its advertising program. In fact, long-time rival Twitter actually beat them to the punch back in 2010. While Twitter’s initial data access didn’t quite measure up to Facebook’s current reach, the social platform has been making steady advancements to the sophistication and application of the data it pulls from its users.
Twitter has been making its user data available to third parties for almost five years, and companies have been able to use that data for two primary uses; to more effectively communicate with their followers on Twitter, and to gain insights about market trends that fuel less social business decisions.
Since advertisers are responsible for the majority of social media platforms’ revenue, it makes sense that more social media platforms will do whatever it takes to match the competition. The more data that’s available to marketers, the happier they can keep their customers, and today, there’s more data available to social media providers than any other company or organization.
Keep watch for more announcements by social media platforms unveiling big data to their most notable advertising users.
A slow rollout
For now, Topic Data will only be available to a handful of select marketing partners in the U.S. and the U.K., mutually agreed upon by both DataSift and Facebook. Chances are, this is a trial run of the technology, and after an initial round of real-time testing, the social media powerhouse will likely refine its approach before ultimately unveiling the technology to all its advertisers. If you’re a small- to medium-sized business using Facebook advertising and hoping to get your hands on Topic Data soon, you might have to wait a year or more before the technology is ready for you.
Facebook’s new Topic Data stream likely won’t revolutionize the world of social media advertising—at least not at first—but it will continue a trend of social media platforms doing more to understand their users and working harder to make that information available to their partners.
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