How brands can use Facebook’s “Trending Topics” for effective real-time marketing

Yesterday, Facebook officially introduced “Trending Topics,” a new feature that shows users what topics or content other people on the platform are talking about.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Twitter has already been doing it for awhile, displaying trending conversation topics or hashtags to its users. However, Facebook’s unique angle is to personalize the trending topics to the user. This means that if I’m not inclined to read sports articles, I’m probably not going to get much news about the Winter Olympics. But if I like viral videos from Jimmy Fallon, the feature will surface that piece of content, and others like it.

Facebook will recommend up to three trending topics to a user in the upper right corner of the platform. The topics will be accompanied by a short headline explaining why it is so popular. Clicking on the topic takes you to a collection of articles, headlines and posts from different media sources.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook will show you what people within your network are saying about the trending topic, instead of a flood of messages from users all around the world. This would only include your friends, the public posts of people you follow, and pages you like. While this means there will be a certain amount of isolation from what the larger population is saying about a topic, arguably this could mean more engagement. Facebook is betting users will be more engaged with conversations that involve their friends, people or the pages they follow.

That’s where a real opportunity for social media marketers comes in. If brands can overcome the initial hurdle of getting people to like their Facebook pages (unfortunately Facebook wants you to pay for ads to do just that) they have an opportunity to enter conversations people are having with their inner network of friends, simply by posting content relevant to a trending topic. Unlike Twitter, where responding to every trending topic would make a brand look schizophrenic in its approach, on Facebook a brand can post several relevant bits of content about different topics, and they would be surfaced only to the users most interested in reading them. This makes it a far more effective targeting tool than posting a tweet  that disappears into the flood of messages from other users around the topic.

This also incentivizes the most effective type of behavior for a brand on social media, which is, to act like a real human. Brands can gain access to mini communities by posting unique status updates, or multimedia content about sports events, TV shows, entertainment news and anything else going viral. Once Facebook users start seeing organic content from brand’s Facebook pages surfacing in their trending topics, they’re far more likely place value on following it.

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