2/02/2016

The definitive list of what everyone likes on Facebook


Last week, Facebook made public a huge trove of data about its users’ interests as part of a new tool called Audience Optimization. For the first time it revealed not only the hundreds of thousands of categories into which Facebook divides its users, but also the number of people who belong to each one.

Here’s how it works: the tool allows any official page manager to identify the "Preferred Audience" for a post by searching for and selecting interests relevant to the story. To help make sure these interests are neither too niche nor too broad, Facebook auto-completes interests and displays the total audience size for each one — not as a subset of your page’s followers, but as a subset of all Facebook users. These categories run from the obvious — BeyoncĂ© — to the more perplexing: emotions, illegal activities, and other identifiers people likely wouldn’t publicly post.

Because Facebook’s interest categories are publicly available, accessing this data was relatively simple. By programmatically emulating searches of all possible letters and numbers until no more results were returned, we were able to pull a list of 282,002 interests — which Facebook says may not even constitute the entire dataset. Most interests are sorted into broad categories like Lifestyle and Culture, People, or News and Entertainment. Each has a very precise number for audience size, ranging from zero all the way up to 1,466,365,990, the number of people interested in Facebook itself. You may have already glimpsed a few of these tags in your advertising preferences, but this is the closest we’ve come to a complete, ranked list of every interest on Facebook....more