8 things Marketers ought to know about Facebook’s new Trending feature

13 Feb,2014

By Saurabh Parmar

 

Facebook recently launched a trending section which is visible on the top right hand side of the homepage for its web visitors (not currently available on Mobile)

 

Since this is a major change on the homepage and seems to compete with Twitter’s trending topics it has generated interest amongst marketers. So what does trending mean for us marketers and can we use it to our advantage?

 

Here is my take:

1. First, what is trending?

It’s a personalized lists of the most mentioned words and phrases at the current time with short explanations of why each is blowing up. A click-through leads to a Page of mentions by friends, Pages, and public posts by anyone who lets people “Follow” them.

 

 

2. What is this ‘Explanation’ feature which Facebook is talking about?

Facebook's explanation features details why a particular topic is trending

The challenge with Twitter trends is that a lot of times one is not clear why exactly something is trending on Twitter but the explanation bit on Facebook clarifies that thus stoking a user’s interest and hopefully for Facebook getting more clickthroughs.

 

Compare the two trends on the same day.

 

 

Facebook explanation makes it clear why a certain topic is trending.

 

3. Is Facebook personalizing trends based on a user’s interests?

Facebook claims “Topics are personalized based on things you’re interested in and what is trending across Facebook overall.” However I haven’t seen this till now.

 

A quick analysis of trends basis what I have been seeing on my profile over the last two days:

Day 1:

I have hardly liked any sports page and am as uninterested in Microsoft as Justin Beiber (had to clarify the latter). Even on my friends list, there are hardly any people who are talking about Jai Ho the day the trend appeared . In fact more people on my list spoke about it the next day but its not trending then.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

No one on my list is talking about ‘Celebrity Cricket League’ or ‘Li Na’. On ‘Republic day’ there are definitely a bunch of posts by friends or pages I like but that is still on second place for me.

 

So it appears that Facebook seems to take a more macroscopic view of trends, looking at the region (like Twitter-which shows trends on the city level) but nothing seemingly at an individual level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. How are the algorithms different -Facebook vs Twitter trending?

Facebook Trending aggregates the headlines of the day, while Twitter Trending Topics check the pulse of the moment.  With Trend on internet being something very’ in the moment’, I think in the current avatar more users are would go for the latter than the former.

 

5. So can we as marketers use promoted trends?

Twitter has this feature but Facebook is yet to announce anything like that.

 

Even in the near future, I don’t think Facebook trends will directly be used as a revenue source at least not until Facebook gets the product right via various iterations.

 

It’s something which seems to be done to:

1. Build further engagement and clickthroughs via the users and get them to spend more time on the site

2. Serve Facebook’s objective of being the ultimate news destination (remember Facebook is currently the largest medium in the world.Bigger than any newspaper or TV channel… ever!)

3. By capturing current consumer interest Facebook could drive more real time marketing/advertising. Real Time is the goldmine which most advertisers are trying to target.This could probably help them in that direction.

 

6. Can we as brands tap in at all?

 Apart from brands which are involved in the highly topical stuff like movies, cricket, politics or current events I see this having little benefit to marketers in its current avatar.

 

So if you are promoting a new movie which will get mass traction on a specific day or a politician gets talked about a lot on a given day the trending features makes what’s popular more popular , but no it currently can’t make something which people would hardly be interested in trend.

 

For example, Akshay Kumar’s new movie ‘Holiday’ probably reached out to a much larger audience since it was trending across the home page of millions of people who logged onto Facebook yesterday in India. On the other hand, over the last two weeks this was one of the few movies which was trending. Parineeta Chopra started trending post the release of her movie when her performance was appreciated and not like this case when the trailer/movie was released. (Since obviously an ‘Akshay Kumar’ release has more interest to begin with)

 

 

 

7. Does that mean we should # everything and talk about current events?

 No,definitely not!

 

The challenge for Facebook is that most users do not make their profile public or allow everyone to follow them. Thus typically brand pages and a few users  (usually celebrities) are the only ones which will be visible when we click on a trend. This would mean brands or celebrities which talk about current news will have more clicks.

 

CCL has no conversations from my friends list or pages I like

 

Brands can definitely talk more about current events and post news but hopefully most social media agencies won’t be dumb enough to do that.Since:

1. They will end up alienating their current user base by appearing more of a news site rather than what the brand is about

2. Even if they do that they will end up competing with news sites & may not even appear on the first page which completely defeats the purpose.

 

8.Given Facebook’s popularity in India, will this launch pose a bigger challenge for Twitter in India?

Not quite .The nature of the products (Their current definition of trends) is different. Facebook Trending aggregates the headlines of the day, while Twitter Trending Topics check the pulse of the moment.

 

Also since most content on Twitter is public and therefore I see opinions from people I know or have heard of (thus more personalization) whereas Facebook because of its privacy settings will be more restrictive & thus less personalized.

 

The trend for Facebook seems more in its goal of being a one stop news source rather than a brand medium. Brand messages will come up when Facebook as a news source is firmly established in the minds of the consumer.

 

And frankly considering the fact that it’s the largest platform in history seems quite possible, but definitely not now. Not this quarter or in the next six months.  That’s all one can predict on the internet!

 

Saurabh Parmar is Founder, Brandlogist Communications (www.facebook.com/Brandlogist) and is a visiting faculty at Indian Institute of Mass Communications

 

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