Remember back in June 2013 when Facebook introduced hashtags?
It was one of the first big moves Facebook made that felt like a direct act of competition against Twitter (that and introducing movie capabilities to Instagram). But back in that June rollout, Facebook also mentioned that their version of Trending Topics would likely come out a few weeks later.
Well, it wasn't a few weeks later, but now (a bit over 6 months later) Facebook is set to rollout what it is calling 'Trending' to the Facebook masses over the next couple of weeks.
What is Trending?
Trending is relatively simple. Facebook identifies the type of topics you're interested in (either from details on your profile or from status updates) and matches them with discussions that are currently spiking. Facebook said that the important factor here is when discussions see a spike in activity.
In other words, topics that are always popular points of discussion won't constantly show up in Trending. Regardless of how common a topic is, it needs to experience a unique spike in the number of people talking about it. And as stated, a topic will only appear for you if you've expressed an interest in it (or something related to it) in the past.
The popularity of a topic doesn't have to be determined by the use of hashtags, but rather just the related keywords. So in the above image provided by Facebook, Golden Globes could trend regardless of whether people are simply using the keywords 'Golden Globes' or utilising the hashtag #goldenglobes.
One of the interesting differences between Facebook's Trending and Twitter's Trending Topics is that Facebook provides context for a popular topic. As you can see in the above image, each Trending point of discussion is accompanied by a small summary of what the topic is about.
How Trending's additional topic summary is a smart move
While it has never necessarily been Twitter's fault, Trending Topics have often gotten brands and marketers into trouble due to the immediate lack of context surrounding a Trending Topic. As Trending Topic's are initially absent of a summary for what a topic is about, some brands and Twitter users have blindly tried to hijack a Trending Topic, unaware that the topic itself could be of a serious nature (e.g. related to a riot, war, natural disaster, etc.).
With Facebook providing a summary of each of its Trending discussions, no Facebook user, nor brand, can use the excuse that they were unaware of the context of that Trending discussion. By being able to view a summary, you will always know whether the Trending discussion itself is related to something nice or something sad and/or serious. It may be a small difference, but that immediate access to the context of a Trending discussion is very important.
Facebook has started the rollout process for the feature, and all Australian users should have it within the coming weeks.
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