Facebook is playing catch-up to Twitter as a platform for hosting public conversations about live events. But Thursday at the Facebook F8 developers conference, it announced four new APIs that might help even the playing field.
The APIs — Trending, Topic Insights, Topic Feed, Hashtag Counter — will allow media companies working with Facebook development partners to better discover public content and display it on air or online.
It’s a smart move by Facebook, which has struggled to unlock its semi-walled garden of social conversations. Everyone knows that Facebook’s 1.28 billion users discuss news and entertainment on the platform. (Facebook reported 120 million interactions about the Olympics, 45 million about March Madness and 185 million about the Super Bowl.) But up to now Facebook has a spotty record of helping media companies make use of the chatter.
“We actually believe that the highest value conversations and the very best stories are told across platforms and for different kinds of media,” Facebook product manager Allison Swope said. “So it’s really important to us that we are able to empower our media and developer partners to bring Facebook content and data into your programming.”
These APIs should help do that, at least for media companies that can afford to hire third-party developers or have in-house development teams.
The New APIs
- Trending: Facebook rolled out a trending stories unit for desktop users in January. That list changes depending on who the user is; this API will provide a depersonalized list of what’s trending at any given time, with the ability to filter by category and by country.
- Topic Insights: This will show the volume of conversation happening around a topic, with breakdowns for gender, age and geography.
- Topic Feed: This will provide a list of ranked content by topic, make it easier for media to unearth interesting comments or content about a given event.
- Hashtag Counter: Facebook started supporting hashtags last year to uncertain results, this — a near real-time count of hashtags posted on the platform — could make them more useful. The feature will allow more precise polling and voting features.
The APIs will make is easier for media companies to do what many have already been doing, just mostly using Twitter’s more open network. Facebook and its partners have been testing them in high profile forums. Telescope, one preferred development partner, used the APIs to create a social voting app for American Idol, which enables fans to vote for their favorite contestant and possibly have their Facebook profile photo appear on the telecast.
“It helps Ryan tell a story about what’s going on with the audience,” said Bob Morgan, manager of Facebook’s Public Content Solutions team, “now that they have engaged them and brought them into the experience.”
The hashtag counter is likely to be especially popular, giving television producers the ability to take the temperature of the audience during a show and presenting the results by show’s end.
More information about the program is available at Facebook’s Public Content Solutions page.