Facebook’s New APIs Let Media Outlets Visualize Trending Topics And Hashtags

TV news and other media sources now have a way to show off what’s popular on Facebook and with whom. Today Facebook launched the Trending, Topic Insights, Topic Feed, and Hashtag Counter APIs. It’s part of Facebook’s Public Content Solutions division which continues the company’s quest to tempt the media away from its competitor Twitter.

Here’s how the new APIs work:

  • Trending – Surfaces a list of depersonalized trending topics from people are talking about on Facebook right now.
  • Topic Insights – Collects anonymous, aggregated data about the demographics of people discussing a particular topic
  • Topic Feed – Allows partners to search for a term and see a ranked of feed of all the public posts related to that topic
  • Hashtag Counter – tallies the number of time a hashtag was mentioned on Facebook in selected time period.

For example, let’s say the TV show Dancing With The Stars wanted to display some visualization of Facebook data. It could use Trending to illustrate that its show is one of the most popular topics on Facebook, alongside world news and other big stories. It could use Topic Insights to display where the people talking about its show are, what their gender is, and what their other interests are. Topic Feed could let it show all the public posts related to Dancing With The Stars. And it could give out two hashtags for different dancing teams on the show, ask viewers to vote for their favorite team by posting their hashtag, and then compare the tally of the two hashtags to show the results of the poll.

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If the Topic Insights API sounds familiar, that’s because Facebook is calling it “an evolution” of its Keyword Insights API that launched last year. The media industry told Facebook the Keyword Insights API was too clumsy. They had to manually build a whole list of keywords to search for when they wanted to see anything people mentioned related to the topic. Now Facebook does that work for them. With Topic Insights, media partners just enter a topic term, and Facebook returns data about anyone who mentioned a world related to that term. For example, a Topic Insights search of “Red Sox” would also return people who mentioned the baseball team’s player or stadium Fenway park.

So why would Facebook want this current-events chatter data on TV and other media? Because when users see it, it strengthens their perception of Facebook as a place to post public content plus chatter about current events, television, and other real-time news.