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Facebook Data for Researchers

New Access to User Comments Offers Tangible Marketing Data

Last month Facebook announced that they have joined forces with DataSift, a UK software firm, to offer researchers access to what is being said on Facebook about specific events, brands, products or politics.

Topic Data, the tool being introduced, could help businesses tailor their brand and products to what the market is truly demanding, and take a lot of the guess work out of that process. It is currently only available in the US and the UK.

Data mining

Companies can already use Facebook data to target their marketing via Facebook ads and boosted posts, but this tool takes it much further. A company can submit a query on specific trends or opinions, and provided that at least 100 users match the query, DataSift will return a report of anonymized statistical data matching that query.

This has the potential to be helpful to market researchers in a number of ways. Most importantly, the data collected directly from Facebook comments will allow businesses to obtain an accurate representation of what the general public feels and says about their brand or products. For example, if the data is showing that a brand is receiving negative feedback online, the business has a realistic starting point to correct its image and bring it into a more positive light.

That researchers now have the option of accessing this up-to-the-minute information on public perception has the potential to change the social media market research game. As our market research associate, Sheila Weaver says, “A huge hold-up to doing research in social media was that major channels, specifically Facebook, didn’t allow researchers to access the private comments. In order to do data scraping on specific topics, you would have to rely on  a combination of other online sources, such as blogs. This new development will change that – for those that can afford to do it.”

The Down Side

Topic Data assures Facebook users that it aggregates and anonymizes the data collected on any given query so that clients cannot learn the identity of specific users. However, Facebook users do not have the option to opt out of the process. This is where my spidey senses stand on end. Given Facebook’s very public claims of protecting its users privacy,I have to wonder what, exactly, is being accessed to gather this data, and why users do not have the option to opt-in or out. While I see huge benefits of this data availability for the market researching world, I feel it’s very important to protect people’s private information and I don’t agree with the lack of opt-out option.

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About the Author - Amanda Schewaga
Over the past eight years, Amanda has used her powers in social media strategy and content development to help small and big businesses triumph in the online world. BAM! There she goes launching a social media campaign with a reach of over 3 million impressions. KABOOM! There she goes getting her clients to the forefront of their industry and building a dedicated online community.

2 thoughts on “Facebook Data for Researchers

  1. Great stuff Amanda! Thanks for sharing this insight! I too worry about Facebook’s God-like knowledge of private information and the power they have to wield it.

  2. Thank you Jacqueline! I think as long as we only post what we are comfortable being made public and understand that what we post is not 100% private forever, users can feel comfortable using social media.

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