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What Are Facebook Users Talking About? Advertisers Can Now Find Out.

Facebook knows what we like, and now it's sharing the wealth.

Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

If you’re an advertiser, it’s likely someone on Facebook is talking about your product.

But what are they saying? And who, specifically, is doing all the talking?

Those are answers Facebook is now offering to marketers. The company announced Tuesday that advertisers can mine “topic data” from Facebook posts — basically scrape those posts for keywords and phrases — in the hope of understanding what people are saying about a particular product.

That means if Coke wants to find out what people are saying about Pepsi, it can get that info as one anonymous batch of data. Coke can then see the group’s general demographic info like gender, age and location to determine which specific subgroups are interested in the search term.

Advertisers can also see associated words, that is, words that appear regularly alongside the target word. In this example, associated words might be “thirsty” or “challenge.”

The point of all this is to give marketers a better idea of what Facebook users are saying about certain topics or keywords, Matt Idema, Facebook director for ads product marketing, told Re/code in an interview. The result will be more relevant Facebook ads, he said, or perhaps even an altered product roadmap if companies find people are clamoring for one product over the other.

The cost for users is that advertisers will be gleaning this information from Facebook posts, both public or privately shared. (The only exception is posts you share to “only me.”) This data will be anonymized, Idema said, which means you may be just one of a thousand males from California talking about a specific product.

The new data collection means Facebook is taking stock of the things you share on the service. But that’s not new, said Idema, as Facebook already does this to show you ads targeted to your particular demographic.

The difference is that it used to keep this data internally. An advertiser could select a target audience, but Facebook was the one administering the ads and looking at the data. Now it’s offering this general data to those outside Facebook.

For now, Facebook won’t make any money off this topic data, said Idema. The benefit to the social network is that advertisers will know more about the Facebook audience. And for Facebook, the theory is that companies will be encouraged to use the info to run more ads — on Facebook, so that’s where the money is ultimately supposed to come in.

The company is partnering with DataSift to license the information, which, as it happens, is also one of only two independent companies that resells Twitter’s full stream of tweets.

Topic data is available beginning Tuesday in the U.S. and U.K., according to Idema. It’ll expand internationally eventually, but no timeline has been set.

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