Facebook Lends Trending Hand to Brands

New feature open to Madison Avenue, too

Facebook to marketers: Brands are trends, too. That’s the message from Facebook as it promotes its new trending topics feature to Madison Avenue.

“Trending is the place where millions of users will be able to discover what is going in the world and what people are talking about,” said a Facebook email that was sent to agencies. “In the last few weeks we have seen some great topics trend like Golden Globe Awards, Polar Vortex, 24, Nelson Mandela and have seen authentic conversations around them.”

Facebook publicly launched its Trending feature yesterday. For now, the trending box appears to the right of users’ News Feeds on the desktop website—not on mobile.

The move brings Facebook closer to the real-time conversation, a place that Twitter tends to dominate—especially in the minds of advertisers. Facebook wants to capture some of Twitter's cache as the go-to site for breaking news and culturally relevant conversations.

Twitter’s trending topics feature, Trends, while sometimes confusing, displays top stories and marketing messages of the day. It’s also lucrative ad territory where brands can pay to gain prominence among the Twitter babble. Across social media, tech companies are starting to sell trending territory, like new ad products from Tumblr.

Facebook has not announced plans to sell sponsored trends like Twitter, but marketers could still get involved.

“If there are conversations on Facebook about a brand or business that show a sudden increase in chatter around it, it could qualify as a trending topic and people could see it as one,” a Facebook spokesman told Adweek.

Eventually, marketers expect some ad products to evolve from Facebook’s trends, if they last. The offering would likely differ from Twitter’s promoted Trends.

For one, Facebook is doing its best to explain what’s trending—more than just random keywords and hashtagged phrases like they are on Twitter. Also, Facebook is targeting trends more personally, whereas Twitter trends are the same depending on the region—even paid trends are shown to the whole network and only one brand can sponsor a trend daily.

“As always we will continue to improve the Trending experience,” Facebook’s email to the ad agency world said. “Some key areas we are working on are improving ranking, personalization, building great aggregations and insights, and getting more real-time content.”

Facebook said that for now, the trending feature only appears in 20 percent of its 1.2 billion users’ pages in select countries, including the U.S., but it is expected to roll out broadly in the next two weeks.