In today’s e-commerce climate, it is not uncommon to find that browsing the ever-increasing number of companies, products and services can be daunting when trying to find just the right thing. But fear no more, because Facebook has recently made a milestone announcement that could mean huge changes for consumers and businesses alike.

Introducing ‘topic data’ to select partners in the US and UK, Facebook will loosen its hold on its user data information to provide marketers with a broader look and deeper understanding of how their online presence is faring so they may optimize future business strategies.

Topic Data Explained

So Facebook is selling my personal information? Well, yes and no. While Facebook has always provided paying marketers with a narrow scope of how and what people share, they are now offering all of their data for a bigger look. Although the actual boundaries of this data is a bit vague at this point, it is safe to assume that everything and anything that gives a fuller picture will be used to increase insight into overall access, effectiveness and appeal of a given topic.

So what is the actual data Facebook is using? Topic data is all of our user activity, page visits, friend and group requests, posts, likes, shares, clicks, messenger conversations and other social activity information. This is then simplified into coherent data that acts as a reliable sample that can be studied and analyzed for trends, patterns and other inferences. In turn, this gives an exclusive and honest look into a particular product, service, brand, subject, activity or location.

Then what do they do with it? Once marketers have this information they may troubleshoot their approaches and improve the choices they make for their business plans, product road-maps, or more simply, their promotions on Facebook or other online networks. Still not getting it? Here are examples to give you a better idea:

  • A coffee bean retailer learns that their Colombian beans are talked about the most among java connoisseurs and baristas alike, yet their sales are not very high. This allows the retailer to scrutinize their supply chain, availability, product costs and promotional techniques to find a better way to get these well-liked beans to the buying consumers who want them.
  • A ski tourism company can assess what kind of skiing specific types of skiers prefer in certain conditions and what they try to avoid, giving them a better idea of who to appeal to and what kinds of locations to expand into.
  • A company is looking to tap into a new market with a product so they get an accurate read on prospective customer bases, competitors and specific demographics to hone the right to corner a portion of that market.

A comprehensive view of a company’s audience offers a top-down assessment of every aspect of their business. Be aware, however, that this topic data does not include targeted tracking of specific ads. Instead, topic data is a broad-view, holistic approach that merely builds a fuller picture of a product, marketplace and industry.

How Does it Work?

Facebook has teamed up with DataSift, an industry-leading data analysis firm that “enables social networks to build data distribution to an extensive ecosystem of application developers.” Serving over a thousand companies between twenty social networks, blogs and news organizations, DataSift has developed cutting edge technology for synthesizing social data into organized information that can then be retrofitted into improved company tactics. With summary results and quantified facts, marketing innovations and new business applications have never been easier to develop through Facebook’s topic data.

What about Privacy?

Facebook is guaranteeing that all topic data will be anonymous and otherwise private; this means no identifying information disclosures to their partners and marketers. However, this is a moot point considering this data is crunched by DataSift then turned over as facts and figures, analysis and long-form exposition rather than singular pieces of user data.

What Does Topic Data Mean for Everyone?

Though it is hard to say definitively who will prosper the most from Topic Data (aside from consumers), it is safe to assume those few lucky partners who get to use this service will increase their profitability hands down. Whenever a business knows their consumer better, the better they are at creating something they need and want. These marketers will likely modify their praxis be it in approach, products, service areas or clientele. While topic data will encourage some to expand, others will trim down to narrow their scope so to speak. As a business owner or marketer, topic data is valuable and something you are going to want to get in on.