There are two questions which dominate our discussions with clients and potential clients of social media monitoring. The first is about geofiltering Twitter, and the second is about what data they can monitor from Facebook. The answer to the latter is clearer than the answer to the former, yet often seems to leave clients unsatisfied.

They are unsatisfied because they would like to have a bit more of what they had before, whereas now they are getting far less — in terms of social media monitoring.

The source of the confusion is because Facebook now kind of provides what it used to provide, and because Facebook Topic Data is often mentioned in the same sentence as some kind of substitute, which it is not.

A lack of clarity about the difference between social media monitoring and post-hoc social data analysis also adds to the misunderstanding. And, in addition, some social media monitoring vendors also try to fudge their way through because they know that what is now open for Facebook monitoring is not a great sell point — it’s likely to disappoint.

An individual’s public posts are no longer visible

Last year Facebook deprecated the ability of third-party social media monitoring tools to capture public comments by individuals. It’s that simple.

The challenge for many companies comes about because they were using listening tools to find comments about their brand or service and often responding to those individuals on Facebook. But this has not been possible since October 2015.

Facebook announced this change in April 2015, and concurrently announced Facebook Topic Data. This led to Facebook Topic Data being pitched to clients as the upcoming benefit to balance what was being lost by the real-time access changes.

But real-time data capture for customer service and post-hoc analysis for research are two entirely different use cases.

  • Brand Pages are still visible Clients can still monitor Facebook Pages which they own or have specifically chosen to monitor through their social media monitoring software. Until October 2015 if brands wanted to hear what was being said about a topic they had a chance to hear anything which was publicly posted. Now they have to select public Facebook Pages to monitor — they will have to be specifically listening to nominated Pages.
  • It’s not a big a loss as you think While it was certainly beneficial to pick up conversations in Facebook, and of course crucial for customer service, it was rarely understood by clients that the results returned by Facebook were a small sample of public comments by individuals on the defined topic. Thus, in reality, it was always a very leaky avenue of customer service.

So in terms of monitoring real-time conversations from Facebook, where do brands stand?

The answer is very clear. The only conversations which are now visible are those on Pages which have been specifically connected to the social media monitoring platform. Monitoring an individual’s conversations is no longer possible, since you cannot connect to individuals.

If you have a customer service strategy which is based upon monitoring an individual’s conversations on other than connected Pages then it can no longer be executed. Facebook has implemented Privacy-By-Design principles which ensure that this is the case.

You may be offered services which show that they somehow monitor such comments, but these utilise hacks, robots and screen scrapers which all violate Facebook’s Terms of Service. Not a wise choice for a reputable business.

Is Facebook Topic Data an alternative?

No, it is a completely different product which can provide deep insights for a huge variety of brand, marketing, business and societal research. It provides access to aggregate anonymised data, no doubt the best such data on the planet.

  1. You may continue to monitor Facebook Pages in much the same way as in the past.
  2. You can no longer monitor any comments by anyone except as above in point #1.
  3. Facebook Topic Data is a completely different topic to social media monitoring.

Besides Facebook Pages, the monitoring of individual comments and actions on Facebook has been consigned to the history bin, unlikely to ever return.

Further reading: This article gives more insights into Facebook Topic Data – How To get The Most From Facebook Topic Data

This article discusses the limitations of geofiltering Twitter searches in relation to social media monitoring – Why Twitter Location Filtering Is Not What You Think It Is

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