Social media has a unique opportunity to supply businesses with information on trending products and services, as well as what the general public are griping about currently. The information created by you on me on social media is already being used, at least via Twitter, through a system known as the ‘firehose’ – a secure and anonymous pipeline of data from the social network which businesses can use.
Now, Facebook are finally installing their own firehose, allowing companies to take advantage of what’s going on through the biggest social network in the world. Facebook’s data can help not only marketing products, but also creating offers on products based on what people are currently moaning about.
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When warmer, more humid weather comes along at some point this year people will no doubt feel like their hair is being affected by the humidity. The density of moaning generated in a certain area could prompt product manufacturers or supermarkets to generate offers on products.
Whilst it does sound intrusive, home addresses and other personal information are not given to companies – the firehose simply states what people are talking about in a wide area, there’s no chance that companies will be able to tailor advertisements or promotions to individuals, or have any access to their information or even know who the people posting about a certain topic are.
If you really do have a problem with this, there’s unfortunately no way of opting out – everyone’s posts are aggregated into the Facebook firehose. The alternative is of course not using Facebook and instead branching out to a less popular social network, like Tumblr, although obviously there’s disadvantages to that decision beyond just having your data used for marketing.
Whilst advertising won’t be becoming more accurately targeted, firehose will offer those businesses who do buy an advert to market to certain demographics, such as people in a certain area. Facebook’s DataSift software, which handles the firehose and what one can do with the information, mercifully makes sure everything is private.
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Brands are able to query the firehose through a third party application, which then gets handled by the DataSift software, which in turn accesses the secret Facebook data. The multiple layers of security and applications serve as a barrier to intrusive data requests. Facebook has said that any requests that don’t achieve a certain number of hits will turn up blank, to keep things private. Plus, requests to the firehose that might turn up personal information will be banned outright.
All in all, it’s another great deal for the industry and commerce, but not so great for those who don’t want their Facebook posts to be turned into data for companies to use. People are already leaving Facebook in droves for less intrusive networks, but right now the site is bigger than ever. Data from the firehose will be extremely useful, regardless.