Two years ago, Facebook began rolling out its trending topics section in spite of much eye-rolling and snide remarks. It seemed that the social media giant was simply copying Twitter’s rapid-response style. While that may be true, Facebook has used its immense algorithmic capabilities to produce a slight tweak to Twitter’s trending monopoly.
Whether through explicitly ending Twitter’s stranglehold on the idea of “trending” stories, aggregating personalized news or just producing yet another way to curate one’s social media experience, trending topics have altered how people interact with Facebook in particular and social media in general.
1) Encroaching on Twitter’s Space
Since its inception, Twitter has been incredible at connecting users with stories and trending topics. If anything, Twitter has been the place for news junkies and journalists from the get-go. But for people less interested in following the minutiae of the 24-hour news cycle and/or “influencers” in general, Facebook has been and will continue to be the right spot.
While Twitter certainly has its moments, Facebook has continued to outpace its social media rival since trending topics was released in January of 2014. According to Statista, Facebook grew by nearly 300 million active users worldwide between the first quarter of 2014 and the fourth quarter of 2015. Twitter has slightly over 300 million total active users worldwide.
With Twitter’s anemic growth in that period, watching a competitor copy one of their main selling points has certainly left Facebook at the top of the social media food chain.
2) News Aggregation
Twitter has been at the news game for years, which is why it became so popular in the first place. Journalists, newsrooms and media companies all connect with users through hashtags and tweets to keep followers engaged and informed as stories develop.
In fact, according to a study by the Pew Research Center and the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, well over half (63 percent) of Twitter users got their news from the platform in 2015. Nearly 60 percent of Twitter users kept up with news as it happened in real-time.
Twitter users may be more engaged, but the same percentage of users (63) got their news from Facebook in 2015. On that front alone, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the Facebook team can count their trending topics idea a huge success.
However, Facebook is having issues with a handful of publishers creating pages and posting content they don’t own. Technically, said publishers are breaking copyright laws if they don’t have permission to publish someone else’s stories, images or videos, yet continue to do just that.
As a result, Facebook is doing its absolute best to prevent this kind of troublesome content from surfacing, having gone as far as providing a form for users to report any infringements they may stumble upon.
Facebook does, however, recommend trying to contact a publishing entity first by finding their contact information under the “About” section of the offending page, or by finding out who manages the domain by using an online tool such as this. Offenders should then be sent a DMCA takedown request which is a part of US copyright law to help protect creators.
Facebook’s generalized approach to both news and social media isn’t flawless, but it certainly keeps users engaged. For those looking to save time while checking their social media accounts, trending topics provides key headlines to events in an ever-shrinking world, all without ever having to use another social media platform.
3) Curated Content
All successful social media platforms understand that their fans want to see things that other users enjoy. Whether it’s the animal lover obsessed with pictures of dogs in costumes or the social justice warrior lamenting over a variety of worldwide crises, users want content that relates to their interests, hobbies, jobs, etc.
Twitter tries to curate content, as well—albeit differently from their social media counterparts. According to The Next Web, “If you are logged in […] you’ll be able to follow trends. That means you can get updates about an event like the Oscars on your timeline, without having to follow the celebrities who are tweeting about it.”
Twitter’s Moments tries to keep the trending elements that metaphorically built the site on each user’s homepage. But where it falls painfully short is in curating content itself. Instead of an algorithm performing the curation, Twitter hired a team of editors to package its tweets into a neat little collection. Twitter is trying to appeal to a broad majority of people with broadly popular content.
Simply put, Facebook’s algorithm is just better at curating content. No need for editors to determine what people want to read and far less location-based topics—it doesn’t get much better than that. Basically, Facebook is uniting users with exactly what they want to see. For these and other reasons, Facebook remains firmly in the social media driver’s seat.
* Image Credit: Pixabay