Just this week, Facebook released a new homepage feature: “Trending.” The feature is slowly being rolled out across Facebook profiles, so not everyone will see the change at the same time. The new Trending section of Facebook is on the right hand side of the newsfeed page, underneath birthdays and events.
Experts speculate that this move by Facebook is part of an effort to compete with Twitter. And it wouldn’t be the first time that Facebook has done something like this to compete with the 2nd largest social network. This past summer, Facebook introduced the ability to use hashtags, which owe their claim to fame to Twitter.
On January 16th, Facebook created a Trending page within their help section that states:
“Trending shows you the popular topics and hashtags that are being talked about on Facebook. You’ll see stories from people and Pages who’ve shared them with you or have shared them as public. From the right side of your homepage, click a topic that’s trending to see what people are saying about it.”
How it Works
Under the Trending topic headline is a brief description of the trend, a feature that Twitter doesn’t have. This gives the user a little more information about the topic rather than just keywords. Also, Facebook pulls trends that are personalized to each user, whereas Twitter pulls its trending hashtags from topics popular in a specific location/area
So far, the trending topics on my Facebook have been of little interest to me. It seems that Facebook is pulling general, global trends, like “San Francisco 49ers.”
It will be interesting to see how this new feature will benefit businesses. Think about the trends in the screenshot above. Saturday Night Live, aired on NBC, is receiving unpaid advertising and good press, and the San Francisco 49ers are also getting added exposure. This means companies will need to start doing more “newsworthy” actions to be featured or rely on a large fan base to spread their message and push them into the Trending section. Unless Facebook really starts to target its topics, small businesses won’t benefit much from the new feature since they’ll have a hard time creating a nationally newsworthy event or product. If some brands are successful, though, the added exposure could yield great profits.
As always, Facebook is about sharing content—and whether it’s photos, videos or news articles, content is still king. Trending is a way to pull the most popular content into one location. Will Facebook allow companies to buy a spot in the trends, or will they stick to only selling advertisements? Either way, it seems that there will be less space on the right hand side where advertisements are normally displayed, which could mean that Facebook is willing to give up some revenue through selling ads in that same space. It will be interesting to see how the trending feature evolves, as it’s still in the early stages of development and not globally rolled out.
Elizabeth Muckensturm – Guest Blogger & Internet Marketing Strategist