You may have noticed the new trending window in your news feed, as Facebook’s latest feature was made available to most regions earlier in January. Although it might look like a simple imitation of the Twitter’s trending feature at first glance, there’s much more to Facebook trending than first meets the eye.
There’s no denying that most of the major changes to Facebook have been moves to adopt or integrate features that had become popular on other social media sites. The most remarkable example of that may be hashtag support, a feature popularized by Twitter and long since adopted by the social media universe, but was only added to Facebook last summer. That means Facebook has been trailing behind several other major networks in supporting hashtags, including Instagram and Pinterest. The recent adoption of a trending feature is no exception to that rule, but with a twist.
In the regions where Trending has been made available, users can find the trending column on the right side of their content feed. Like the name suggests, the trending column is filled with topics that have been trending online. Topic links include a short headline of nine or ten words, just enough to get the point across, and selecting the headline will show you any posts your friends have made about that topic.
But in true Facebook fashion, rather than just providing a list of popular articles, the list is highly personalized to include the topics that interest you specifically as well as what’s popular overall. That means the trending feature won’t be exclusively restricted to celebrity news and breaking international stories that receive millions of hits, but can extend visibility of whatever is trending in the categories ascribed to the reader.
A New Facebook
Facebook calls this change an opportunity to give people more of the content that they want. Of course it’s been long understood that Facebook users have more engagement with posts from users than they do for content posted by faceless brand pages, so it’s easy to speculate that this change is part of a larger effort to improve engagement with pages that aren’t explicitly recommended by a user’s circle of friends. It also provides Facebook with a means of placing an emphasis on visual content in the user feed, which is a trend that anyone who posts content on Facebook should be aware of.
This change is just one in a series of steps that Facebook has been making to reinvent their platform by making it easier to discover new content. You may recall that back in December, Facebook changed part of its news feed algorithm in order to emphasize rich content over shallow meme-type content. Facebook relies on a steady flow of fresh content to keep people interested and engaged in their site, so if users aren’t doing their part by posting status updates or posting pictures, that’s not good for business. Consequently, the social media giant is driven to help users discover interesting and relevant content directly from Facebook.
Facebook took another major step towards increasing content discovery with the recent release of its new mobile app, Paper. The app provides readers a way to cut through your friends posting pictures of what they had for lunch, and get a front row seat for more concrete content. Although trending is not currently available on Paper, it is currently being tested on the mobile platform.