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Studying the public areas of Facebook

Photo courtesy of Ryan Wick  via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Ryan Wick via Flickr

As the world’s most popular social network, Facebook seems like the place to start for many communications professionals looking to broaden their reach through social sites. The first logical step in taking part in any community is to listen, so is it any surprise that public relations and marketing profiessionals want to know what’s being said about their brands on Facebook? Yet, we tend to inquire about it with a sense of caution.

As well we should.

The largest online hub of social activity achieved that status in part with a rigorous and highly customizable set of privacy protections. But recently Microsoft Bing and Google announced that they will begin indexing the publicly accessable portions of Facebook, including status updates who publish them to “Everyone”. Many premium social media monitoring applications, including the Cision Social Media Dashboard powered by Radian6, also cover these publicly available messages.

The percentage of Facebook users who make their status updates available to all is not known, but anecdotally it seems quite small. Still, if even 1 percent of users choose to broadcast publicly, that represents a valuable stream of potential insights for companies and organizations.

For another take on this issue, see this insightful post from our friend Jason Falls at Social Media Explorer.

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