Facebook’s Twitter-like feature “Trending Topics” has been around since early January. Along the right-hand side of your Facebook page, you might have seen these personalized lists which show the most mentioned words and phrases, including hashtags, in real-time, along with short explanations of why each topic is “hot”. Facebook Trending allows you to see “stories from people and Pages who’ve shared them with you or have shared them as Public.” (Facebook).
Since trending was launched, many people weren’t truly excited about the feature. Said one user (per this PC World story) “If I want to look at trending, I would sign in to Twitter,” because, “even though Facebook is a twit. It is not Twitter.”
I rarely post publicly on Facebook and I don’t have “Follow” turned on, and I really don’t know many other people who post publicly either. So the actual popularity of Facebook’s Trends are debatable. As of now, the trending topics you do see most likely won’t be about people, places or things that interest you. For example, you might be a male baby boomer and like classic rock and Harleys but might see a trending topic about a fight that broke out between two female pop singers vying for the same guy. So who does trending topics really matter to? Mostly the users who have turned on the “Follow” feature to let non-friends read their public posts. How many people have turned that feature on, again we are not certain. However, for the amount of people that do turn on the feature, it’s more helpful to TV media and other outlets now that since April 30, Facebook is allowing outlets to visualize trending topics and associated hashtags. Popular TV shows can show audiences how their content favors among viewers. Josh Constine of Tech Crunch explains how the new APIs work:
- Trending – Surfaces a list of depersonalized trending topics from people are talking about on Facebook right now.
- Topic Insights – Collects anonymous, aggregated data about the demographics of people discussing a particular topic
- Topic Feed – Allows partners to search for a term and see a ranked of feed of all the public posts related to that topic
- Hashtag Counter – tallies the number of time a hashtag was mentioned on Facebook in selected time period.
Josh goes onto to suggest that Facebook has rolled out this feature media outlets to influence Facebook fans by strengthening the “perception of Facebook as a place to post public content plus chatter about current events, television, and other real-time news.” It’s once again the old tale of Facebook looking to dominate Twitter!
As of this writing, Facebook’s What’s Trending page only has 52,591 fans and not much engagement. What do you think is the future of Facebook Trending as a source for real-time topics?