Data may be the gold of the 21st century, but making it useful is often a big challenge. This is especially true when it comes to social data, which has proved very desirable but hard to filter. At its f8 Conference this month, social networking giant Facebook unveiled several new APIs that will make it easier for companies to spot trends on the social network and gain insight into the people behind them. The four new APIs released are:
- A Trending API that "exposes a list of depersonalized trends that people are currently talking about on Facebook."
- A Topic Insights API that "provides aggregate anonymized insights about people mentioning a certain topic."
- A Topic Feed that "lets you search for any topic and see a ranked feed of public posts about that topic."
- A Hashtag Counter that "lets you count the number of times a specific hashtag has been used within a certain time frame."
The new APIs are part of Facebook's suite of Public Content Solutions offerings. The company launched Public Content Solutions last month in an effort to ensure that media companies have the resources they need to leverage the social network's vast and ever-growing trove of data.
As Bob Morgan, a partner engineer manager at Facebook, explained, "Whenever something important happens in the world — from the Sochi Olympics to the crisis in the Ukraine to the results of the Oscars — people immediately take to Facebook to discuss it. With more than a billion people using Facebook and engaging in real-time conversations during these moments, it’s important for us to work closely with media companies to help them tell these stories."
Facebook says the four new APIs were developed in response to specific requests from media organizations, and the speed with which they were released suggests that the company places a good deal of importance on relationships with these entities.
Facebook's new APIs may be especially appealing to broadcast media companies, which have become some of the biggest users of social data. Social media is a source of content for television and cable networks, as well as a channel for marketing, promotion and feedback.
Twitter, which many view as a significant competitor to Facebook, has been especially active in forging relationships with broadcast media and is arguably ahead of Facebook in this category. By offering up new APIs that will give media companies the ability to more easily identify trends and the people driving them on the world's largest social network, Facebook could be poised to give Twitter a run for its money in this space.