SAN DIEGO, CALIF. (TheStreet) -- Facebook (FB), for the first time, is giving marketers access to the opinions expressed by its audience of nearly 1.4 billion people -- and it's not directly making a dime in the process.
Of course, Facebook is not handing over this prized information, called "Topic Data," out of the goodness of its heart. It may not make money directly, but the company is betting that this data will encourage marketers to spend more money advertising on Facebook.
Topic data is a new product Facebook is offering to select clients through its data-processing partner DataSift. The data processor is helping Facebook package huge mounds of anonymous opinions posted on the social network and broken-down by more than 60 demographic attributes. DataSift is providing marketers with a summary of how people are talking about products, activities, events, brands and industries.
The demand from brand marketers and third-party analytics providers for Facebook data is "huge," Altimeter Group analyst Susan Etlinger said in a phone interview, and the partnership with DataSift allows the social network to distribute the data efficiently.
"Obviously, marketers want to have access to a whole bunch of data on what people on Facebook are doing and thinking," Etlinger said.
With topic data, a fashion retailer can, for instance, learn which clothing items its target audience is talking about and then use that information to decide which products to stock. Likewise, a company that makes a hair de-frizzing product can get a better handle on its perfect customer by using topic data to look at the demographics on the people who are talking about humidity's effects on their hair.