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Facebook Rolls Out A New Trending Posts Feature

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If you have a large friend list or fan base on Facebook, you can often tell what is trending in real time. Whether it’s a pro ball game or a crazy episode of Scandal, some Facebook users become more in the know just by reading their News Feed. But what if you want to know what’s popular around the world or all over Facebook outside of your limited circle of friends and connections? That’s where the new Facebook Trending feature comes in.

Prior to Facebook’s initial rollout of Trending, Twitter had been providing a list of popular topics for people to check out. Now Facebook is following suit. And, it may have much more up its sleeve, more than meets the eye.

Facebook Isn’t Successful With Twitter-style Hashtags

In June, 2013, Facebook started supporting the use of Twitter-style hashtags – keywords tagged with the hashtag symbol, “#”. Hashtags allow for posts to be grouped under a single keyword (e.g., #quotes). Twitter is responsible for making hashtags popular and way for people to keep track of posts related to popular keywords or to use certain keywords for marketing or engagement purposes. Some people even use them to carry on actual conversations in real-time. Hashtags have proven to greatly increase the popularity of tweets. Surprisingly, reports have indicated that using hashtags on Facebook does not increase the viral reach of posts. Therefore, their use is of little benefit to Facebookers.

Shortly following the addition of the hashtag feature, Facebook announced that they would be testing a new Trending posts feature. Similar to Twitters “Trends” box, this feature was limited to a very small number of United States users of the mobile version of Facebook. The idea behind Trending was to showcase attention-grabbing headlines for popular topics in hopes of increasing engagement among its 1.2 billion users. Perhaps this was a way to makeup for the ineffectiveness of hashtags and a means to better compete against its social media rival, Twitter.

Facebook “Trending” as Engagement Booster

On January 16, 2014, Facebook’s Engineering Manager, Chris Struhar, announced the official launch of a redesign of the Twitter-style Trending feature on the Facebook Newsroom web page. According to Struhar, Trending is “a new product that’s designed to surface interesting and relevant conversations in order to help you discover the best content from all across Facebook.”

In January, following additional test runs on the web and mobile, Facebook officially launched a redesign of the Twitter-style Trending, which had been in early development stages since August. The initial launch, which had been in early development stages since August, involves a few select countries, including the United States (US), Canada, United Kingdom (UK), India, and Australia. Those with Facebook accounts in these countries should begin to see Trending show up on their walls over the next two weeks. More countries will be added at a later date. Although Trending won’t yet be available on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, Facebook indicates that it is will continue testing its use on the Facebook app.

While logged into your Facebook account, you can find a “Trending” section on the right hand side of your Facebook News Feed at the top of the sidebar. This is the same location where you typically find Sponsored ad listings and the real time Ticker showcasing friends’ posts. Trending includes of list of topics that are currently being discussed in numbers that make them popular. The type of topics that show up in the Trending list varies greatly from individual to individual.

Trending was created as a personalized feature so that viewers see a list of popular topics in which they are most interested and which may be based on their location and information already collected by Facebook. This insight may come from items entered into an individual’s profile, as well as items they may have posted as a status update or searched for in their browser. In addition to the personalized list of Trending topics, Facebook also includes topics and discussions that have become popular all over Facebook. These may be ranked according to the when the topic was being talked about, the credibility of those talking about the topic and how much the topic is being talked about by other Facebook users.

The Difference Between Facebook Trending and Twitter Trends

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Facebook Trending is similar to Twitter’s list of popular topics, which has been a Twitter feature since 2008. Facebook shows a maximum of only three topics at a time in the special section of the sidebar. However, Facebook has taken trendy topics a step further. Unlike Twitter, which only lists the topics, Facebook also lists each topic as a headline along with an explanation as to why it is a Trending topic. This provides more information for viewers and may entice them to click on the topic link. Once a user clicks on the headline, all the popular posts about that topic and posted by Facebook friends and Facebook pages can be viewed. As compared to Twitter, it would appear that Facebook’s Trending feature will help people to decipher topics that aren’t readily recognized or understood.

Since 2010, Twitter has also used popular topics to offer a Promoted Trends feature. Since the inception of this source of revenue, it has been reported that Promoted Trends cost approximately $200,000 per day for various brands. Similarly, it is believed that Facebook may use Trending as a source of revenue much like they do their sponsored ad listings. Twitter has been the leader when it comes to hot topics, attracting users to take part in real-time comments, discussions, searches, etc. on a wide range of topics from politics to reality shows. In any case, it is expected that Trending will make Facebook a major source for newsworthy and real-time information, allowing for users to more easily access otherwise difficult to find time-sensitive information. This may give Twitter, and other social media sites, a run for its money. Although users tend to cringe and the idea of Facebook making changes and cluttering up the News Feed, no one can deny that Facebook has penetrated a large portion of the Internet in ways we’d never fathom.

How to Use Trending to Your Advantage

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Whether you use Facebook to keep up with friends or family or use it to promote your company’s products and services, Trending may be of benefit to you. For personal use, you can access trendy topics and always be in the know as it pertains to anything from sports to the latest disaster news. If you’re a business owner or marketing professional, Trending can be a way to reach and engage with your potential customers.

Take advantage of what topics are being talked about and find a way to incorporate them into your promotions. That way you are very likely to show up in the Trending section of Facebook users. This will help add an additional element to your posts and more opportunities to go viral. No matter what you decide to post, the key is to always post content that is relevant and of interest to your intended audience.

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James Parsons

I'm an avid blogger on SEO, social media, and design. When I'm not working with the awesome guys at AudienceBloom, I'm writing for my personal blog at JamesParsons.com or working on my next big project.

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