Facebook Tries Tracking Social Conversations
September 9, 2013

New Facebook Feature Tracks Social Conversations Like Twitter

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Facebook has released two new tools meant to give brands and potentially advertisers a way to see which topics are being most discussed on their network. This move is just the latest of several attempts to get people to carry on conversations on Facebook rather than Twitter.

Though plenty of conversations and debates are carried out everyday on the world’s largest social network, Twitter is often touted as the go-to digital locale to discuss current events in real time, such as sporting events or popular television shows. With Facebook's new tools, organizations will be able to track what all users - even those who keep their accounts private - are talking about.

The tools are being rolled out to CNN and other news organizations first, but it’s expected that Facebook will eventually provide this functionality to other brands and advertisers in the future.

“Over the past few months, we have rolled out a series of products aimed at surfacing the public conversations happening on Facebook including hashtags, embedded posts, and trending topics,” writes Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of media partnerships and online operations in a company blog post.

“Starting today, selected news organizations can begin to integrate Facebook conversations into their broadcasts or coverage by displaying public posts of real-time activity about any given topic.”

Buzzfeed, CNN, NBC’s Today Show, BSkyB, and Slate are the first news organizations to have access to the APIs for this new tool, though Facebook promises it is working with “top media partners" to expand this feature. Ryan Osborn, NBC News' vice president of digital innovation and social media said the news organization will trot out the service for an upcoming feature called "Taking Sides: Should the U.S. Strike Syria?"

“As a news organization, we’re always trying to answer what our people talking about,” said Osborn in a statement to the New York Times.

KC Estenson, senior vice president and general manager of CNN Digital, told the Times that they hope to get a more personal reaction from users on Facebook than they might from Twitter users. Most Twitter profiles are public and therefore, available to the world. Facebook profiles, on the other hand, are more likely to be private either to protect the users’ identity from online criminals or from Facebook themselves.

“This is the social media equivalent of man-on-the-street reporting,” said Estenson of the new features. "Over time, we'll be able to put a lot more intelligence against that."

The first of the new tools will allow CNN, NBC and others to search for keywords to see which topics are most often discussed on Facebook. The social network recently gave users the same opportunity to search hashtags in an earlier push to take on Twitter’s dominance in real-time conversation.

The second of these new tools allows news organizations to search keywords of private users, but they’ll only see anonymized and broad data about the person’s age, gender and location. These new tools could also act as a reminder for users to revisit their privacy settings and see which of their information and posts are publicly seen and, therefore, viewable by these new tools.

Earlier this spring, Facebook added another feature meant to accommodate real-time conversations when they gave Page owners the ability to reply directly to specific comments rather than throw a reply into the stream of other comments.