Last month, Facebook revealed its updated News Feed algorithm that would give news-focused content more visibility. But the social network wasn’t done there. Now, Facebook announced a new feature that could further establish its position as a leading news source, and potentially even knock out Twitter: The Trending list. This list was designed to help Facebook users find popular stories, the official press release stated, and it could give marketers an incentive to create custom content covering trending topics.
The Trending list will be given a prominent position on Facebook, in the top right corner just below the privacy and settings icons where the network currently displays friends’ birthdays.
“The list is personalized, including topics based on things you’re interested in and what is trending across Facebook overall. Each topic is accompanied by a headline that briefly explains why it is trending,” Facebook’s Engineering Manager Chris Struhar wrote in the post.
Struhar added that by clicking on Trending headlines, users will “See the most interesting posts from [their] friends or Pages that are talking about that particular topic.”
Although not yet available to all U.S. users at present, the feature is being rolled out for the website in select countries and a mobile version is being tested.
This update looks and feels a lot like the Trends box that appears on Twitter and lists popular hashtags. Whether or not this change is aimed at stealing internet users’ time back from the microblogging site, it does play into Facebook’s hand at becoming a reliable news source. Just this week, it was leaked that Facebook’s long-time work-in-progress Paper may shortly be released. This mobile app is likened to Flipboard’s news reader capabilities and will make it easier for Facebook members to discover and read news content on the go.
As the social network with the biggest user base, it’s crucial that marketers keep a close eye on its shift towards news. If the platform intends to become an information and conversation channel, brands will need to seamlessly meld the two in their social content to stay visible and drive results.