Facebook’s New Keyword Insights API: Media and Market Reactions

A new Facebook Keyword Insights API has been made available to a select range of media partners in the United States, allowing registered developers to create finer-grain, real-time data analysis of popular reactions to the latest news, sport and pop culture stories.

In the immediate days following the API release, as big media outlets began using the tool in their reporting, Facebook’s market share price rose to its highest levels ever. Could we be seeing the clearest signs yet that opening up access to valuable data assets via an API can generate business confidence and strengthen a company’s market position?

Earlier this week, the Facebook Keyword Insights API was made available to a limited number of big media players. The API uses a SQL-style interface to query all Facebook post mentions on any given topic from the last 12 days, breaking down data by gender, age range, and location of the Facebook poster.

Media Use of the new Facebook Insights API

So far, media partners have begun to make use of the new tools in one-off articles.

BuzzFeed have used the API tools to present a fascinating and nuanced look into American popular and current affairs culture, using Facebook data to compare public interest in Miley Cyrus’ twerking with public reaction to a potential war with Syria. The API data uncovered a number of unexpected and possibly counterintuitive trends. Yes, Miley Cyrus was more often talked about by under-35 year olds, but this same age range were also more engaged and informed about Syria than older age groups in the week leading up to President Obama’s speech about the country’s use of chemical weapons. By then, under 35s felt they had all the information they needed to know, while for the older age group, that was when they began to talk more about Syria than younger Facebook users.

At the other end of the spectrum, online news magazine site Slate decided to use their early access to Facebook’s new API to rate which swear words are most popularly used on the social network. (Great, who cares, I'm not even going to bother linking to it.)

Other media outlets gaining early access to the Keyword Insights API include CNN and the four free-to-air TV news broadcasters in the US. So far, a quick review of CNN sites hasn’t revealed how they are using the new tools to complement traditional reporting. One potential is to update the standard template for telling a news story: say what happened, give some background details, finish with an analysis of the initial reaction to it. (Another tool, the Facebook Public Feed API was also released to the same media partners, which allows the creation of a data stream of Facebook topic mentions to be displayed, which will be surely incorporated into TV and CNN news broadcasts news ticker displays at some point.)

Perhaps most revealing for how the Facebook Insights API will be used by media is to look at the examples given by another of the early access partners: social media data agency, Mass Relevance. How Mass Relevance are using the Facebook data is useful to review for API developers, data business entrepreneurs, and data journalists who want to prepare now to use the API in future (or want to use API tools like Topsy Analytics to replicate the format). Mass Reaction gives examples of Facebook mentions of sports, news and reality TV updates, showing that the data can inform not just how news is reported but decisions about which news to report and which distribution channels to report it on, based on Facebook reader interest levels.

Market Reaction

It has been a week of seismic shifts in mainstream media. BuzzFeed, already recognized as one of the newest ‘big media’ players, has announced an interest in using its sizable revenue to establish staff teams dedicated to investigative reporting, while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos spent $250 million buying old media monolith, the Washington Post, sparking renewed interest and speculation in how old-paradigm media players like newspapers, broadcast and cable TV can pivot in the new paradigm world of globally distributed, on-demand content.

The market seems to think that amid all these upheavals, Facebook is well-placed to be generating profit by selling API products that can help the new media empires use data in their reporting and in their strategic planning. Indeed, the value BuzzFeed and Mass Relevance are showing can be gleaned from the data made available via the API surpasses Twitter, which has itself already been a major disruptor for news broadcasting.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook can share more fine grain data on who is saying what. Examples on the Facebook Keyword Insights API developer page show how to query mentions of a topic by gender, location, age-range, when people started mentioning the topic, and how long the conversations have been going for. Specific queries can be made to get both gender and age-range breakdowns at the same time, and to aggregate mentions by continent or country, or drill down to specific city-based discussions.

Since Facebook’s release of the Keyword Insights API, the company’s market share price has increased 3.3% to its highest level ever, according to Mashable. No other news was released around this time, although to be fair, the stocks have been rising fairly consistently since late July, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s forthcoming talk at TechCrunch Disrupt could also have raised expectations.

While there are no doubt many factors influencing market confidence in a company, the deployment of unique API tools which unlock access to valuable data and insights may be beginning to have a recognized value in assessing a company’s actual worth.

Be sure to read the next API article: The Stride API: Making Sales Tracking Easy with a Simple CRM