Last year, Facebook implemented hashtag functionality, effectively linking posts and conversations and allowing users to participate in meta conversations, just like Twitter and Google+. However, the only way for a Facebook user to notice such a conversation would be to do a hashtag search, or click on a hashtag that they saw in an existing post.
Facebook has finally announced a new product called Trending. As it rolls out, it will appear in the upper right sidebar and essentially be a list of the most popular topics trending at that time. As you can see in the screenshot from Facebook below, each topic will be accompanied with a brief description.
When clicking on any of the topics, Facebook users are presented with posts from friends and Pages regarding that topic, like this:
What’s interesting to businesses and marketers is that based on this screenshot, it’s not clear whether or not specific hashtags are the only mechanism for keying up a story. The ABC News post included in the image above doesn’t appear to have any hashtags associated with it.
So we will have a number of questions and will be watching closely to see how this works.
First, if posts are not included based on hashtags alone, how effective will Facebook be at identifying the content and subject of posts that should be included within specific trending topics?
Second, the announcement states “your friends and Pages” – does that mean that you will only see trending posts specifically from the people and Pages you’ve already connected with? Earlier in the announcement it states that the feature is designed to help you “discover the best content from all across Facebook” so it’s a safe guess that Trending will include all Public posts whether you’re connected to the originator or not.
And of course the most important question, how interested will Facebook users be in using this product? On Twitter and Google+, such features have been huge for marketers. When one of my stories reaches What’s Hot on Google+, it brings a whole new level of attention and interest and traffic. If such interest becomes popular on Facebook, it could go a long way toward renewing the relationship that Facebook has with small businesses who have recently questioned their investment.
What do you think? As a Facebook user, will you be interested in seeing what other people are saying on “trending” topics? As a marketer, do you think this could be huge for businesses who are sharing and posting about popular topics?
As the product rolls out and some of these questions are answered, we’ll be watching closely.