Love him, hate him, or love to hate him, it’s positively undeniable that Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most influential people on the planet today. What started out as a closed networking site for people from a specific school has grown to become not only one of largest social media platforms on the Internet, but also one of the biggest marketing platforms online or offline ever.
There are all sorts of tips, tricks and tactics you can use to leverage the power of Facebook in your favor. You can maximize your branding, you can syndicate your blog, and you can tell you fans to get notifications too. But you know the one prime area of Facebook real estate that everyone wants?
The trending news section. It always appears at the top of the right sidebar and it certainly gets a lot more eyeballs than any other post that flies on by through the regular news feed.
Facebook hasn’t released any specific statistics on the matter, but it is painfully obvious that stories appearing on the trending news section will get a lot more clicks and a lot more visitors than stories that don’t. I know that I peruse through the trending section each day to see if there’s anything interesting I missed.
But how can you get yourself on there? How are these topics selected in the first place? How does Facebook choose which source or which article for the story should be highlighted closest to the top when someone clicks on one of these trending stories?
Most of us would assume that the trending news section is generated using an algorithm, just like the Facebook news feed or Google search engine results. And we’d be wrong, at least for now. Gizmodo learned that Facebook actually has a team of “news curators” who hand select the stories and sources.
There’s a whole other story here about how Facebook treats these contract workers, but in the context of Internet marketing and online branding, there are a few lessons you should take to heart.
First, because the stories are hand-picked by a small team of people working out of a basement in New York, there’s not much you can do to get their attention aside from actually having a particularly noteworthy story that has people talking anyway. There’s no real rule for how to decide what story is the most newsworthy aside from the curator deciding that for him or herself.
Second, these curators have been told to choose the “most substantive post” to summarize the topic at the top. Does this mean that if you have the best blog post on the subject that you’ll get highlighted? Probably not. A number of “preferred” media outlets have been hand-selected for that purpose and Facebook has instructed its news curators to rely more on these traditional media outlets more often than not. These might include the New York Times or Variety. Chances are that’s not you.
Third, a story typically won’t appear on the trending news section unless at least three traditional news outlets are covering it. What’s more, a news curator can “blacklist” any topic at any time for seemingly any reason. This power doesn’t appear to be abused just yet, but recognize that even if you get your story on there, it could be removed for any reason (or for no reason at all).
So, what does this all boil down to? In the grand scheme of things, you have very little control or influence over what stories show up in the trending news section on Facebook. However, if you are able to capitalize on these topics and write about them in a very timely and very “substantive” way, you could get featured somewhere along the topic page. It also appears that trending news stories tend to get preferential treatment in the regular news feed.
Chasing trends can be time-consuming and the rewards can be fleeting. As we’ve heard so many times before, content is still king. Just make sure you back up that content with its queen: marketing and branding. If content is never read, does it really exist?