Trending topics aren’t just for Twitter anymore. Earlier this month Facebook jumped into the real-time news game with the introduction of its “Trending” box—a continuously updated area to the right of the main News Feed that surfaces popular subjects across the service.
While the feature looks remarkably like Trends on Twitter, it does differ a bit by giving more context. Each headline, which leads to a post from a friend or a topic Page, is accompanied by a description explaining why the subject is on the rise.
What makes something worthy of landing in the Trending box? Facebook said in a press release that, unlike Twitter, the topics listed aren’t based on geography but rather “on things you’re interested in and what is trending across Facebook overall.”
As TechCrunch noted in its initial review, there isn’t actually much visible personalization yet. For the most part, the trending topics currently being surfaced are broad news, sports, and pop culture stories, which are not relevant to every user.
However, in time, Trending should get better at predicting what you like, which could make it an extremely powerful tool. Slate notes that the feature, combined with the introduction of hashtags last year, is a strong move by Facebook to establish itself as a “hub for real-time public conversations” and could turn the social media network into the “USA Today of the 21st century.”
For brands, Trending marks an important turning point in how to view Facebook. Until now, the social media network was a place primarily for limited engagement, whether between friends or between an organization and those who had Liked its page. Now Facebook is evolving into a much more open content-sharing platform.
Ultimately, this shift means that marketers and their branding firms may have to rethink how they use Facebook. If Trending is successful, real-time conversations about topics and events will no longer be dominated by Twitter. Instead, companies looking for timely engagement will have to increasingly target both networks.
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