Following tests of Twitter-style “trending” topics on the web and mobile in August, Facebook today officially launched a redesigned “Trending” section on its homepage’s sidebar in the U.S., U.K., Canada, India and Australia. The richer design shows personalized lists of the most mentioned words and phrases of the moment 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.
If Facebook users find the Trending section atop the right sidebar of their homepage useful, it could encourage public sharing, drive return visits, and most importantly — make Facebook better known as a news source for current events. The social network has been in a heated battle with Twitter for that distinction over the past few years.
“Trending” will roll out to all users in the specified countries over the next few weeks, and Facebook continues to test a mobile version.
The explanations make Facebook’s “Trending” section a bit busier than Twitter’s simple list, but could also make it more immediately accessible. Sometimes it’s tough to tell what a Twitter Trending Topic means or why it’s popular, such as today’s “#SuperDraft”, which refers to the Major League Soccer player draft. That leads to clumsy digging through the hashtag’s tweets, or a web search for the term.
Facebook’s version of Trending doesn’t just list “24″, it explains that “Fox Sets May 5 Premiere for ’24: Live Another Day’”. While you might know Cristiano Ronaldo is a famous soccer player, if he trends on Facebook, it’ll tell you why, such as “Cristiano Ronaldo wins Fifa Ballon d’Or after stellar year at Real Madrid”.
Once you click though, though, Facebook’s Trending pages (seen above) look a lot more basic than Twitter’s. Facebook shows a feed of links and posts by pages, celebrities, and public updates from users who have turned on the “Follow” feature to let non-friends read their public posts. But they all look a bit the same. Twitter’s Trending pages have more style, intelligently highlighting compiled sets of photos and people you should follow as well as posts mentioning the topic.
And since Twitter has been long-known as a place for current, and since most content on Twitter is public and therefore eligible, Twitter’s Trending Topics pages may be deeper and move faster alongside breaking news.
The fact is that most people don’t post publicly on Facebook and don’t have “Follow” turned on, so what appears in Facebook’s Trends isn’t actually what’s popular with people.
Overall, Facebook’s Trends seem a bit more immediately helpful and personally relevant, but Twitter’s pages will likely feature much richer content that actually reflects the thoughts of the common man, not just celebrities and news outlets.