Developing a targeted message for a Facebook fan page audience can be challenge. The challenge takes a new turn when a business is unaware of how positively or negatively its online activity is accepted among its fan page followers.

Facebook has made sentiment easier for business operating a fan page through the launch of a new set of fan page metrics called Topic Data.

Topic Data reveals the aggregate sentiment of fan page audiences on Facebook about events, brands, subjects and activities. That will help businesses gauge whether the sentiment is good or bad.

What That Mean for Marketers?

Topic Data helps marketers evaluate the quality of audience commentary about businesses on Facebook.

It does this by highlighting audience comments about events, brands, subjects and activities in which the business is mentioned. This differs from Insights in that general activity of a Facebook fan page appears in a dashboard. The end value is better understanding of audience sentiment about a business.

Facebook has launched a dedicated webpage page that explains a few overall details of how Topic Data works.

The page offers a set of examples on how Topic Data could be best used. For example, a fashion retailer can see the types of clothing its target audience is talking about. That information can influence inventory decisions.

No images further detail how the data is accessed or how the data will appear in Facebook Insights.

Part of the reason for the mystery lies in which business will have first access to it.

To develop Topic Data, Facebook partnered with DataSift, one of the leading data-as-a-service (DAAS) enterprise firms.

DataSift analyzes social signals in social media data. Starting from access to the Twitter stream data, the company developed social analysis.

Its connection with Facebook developed as the company began to add access to the major platforms. Programmable Web notes DataSift as one of only two certified Twitter data resellers as of February 2014 that has access to the full Twitter datastream.

Facebook is using DataSift’s technology to power the platforms that turn the data into insights.

Topic Data is being launched as a limited beta. So select DataSift partners in the US and UK will have initial access. Availability will grow once Facebook has examined how well the beta users become acclimated to the Topic data.

Hold On a Minute

There are limitations in how the data is used with other Facebook marketing tools.

Topic Data cannot be used to target ads directly, so there is no direct link to the advertising manager. I imagine that insights from Topic Data could highlight how to better tailor your Facebook ad content to address your audience feeling about your brand.

To maintain privacy of personal information, the information used for Topic Data is anonymized and aggregated. The information provided is meant to give marketers the data they need to make better decisions, it’s not meant to infringe on anyone’s privacy.

Still I see a particular promise for businesses if Topic Data is combined with metrics from Facebook Insights. Insights dashboard contains basic reach metrics for page posts.

Topic Data can add another layer by specifying how much of the fan page activity is potentially driven to positive or negative comments about the company.

It is uncertain how this will be combined, if at all, but a deeper usage of data is understandably a desired direction to make the analytics valuable. Increasing the value of analytics in turn unlocks the value Facebook has from its audience, a feat many business critics and experts have anxiously awaited.

Marketing experts have debated the value over the years. Today, 30 million businesses conduct commerce through Facebook, according to Forbes.

But back in 2012, some businesses claim that successful sales conversions in Facebook were elusive. In fact Mashable and Bloomberg reported how many retailers shut down their Facebook page at that time.

Since 2012 Facebook has made several clear changes and additions.

It's been trying to strike a balance between improving its capability to promote sales while remaining popular with users who do not want to be inundated with promotions.

Developing tailored program can help any company maintain that balance, and it will be interesting to see how Topic Data will enhance marketing strategies that support that balance.