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Facebook recently announced a new “Trending Topics” feature, to make it easy to see what the world was talking about on Facebook. But what happened to hashtags? Aren’t those supposed to be on Facebook too? What should we use now?

Hashtags Aren’t Working? Or Are They?

Facebook’s hashtags are still less than a year old Facebook Follows Twitter's Lead And Adds Hashtags To Posts [Updates] Facebook Follows Twitter's Lead And Adds Hashtags To Posts [Updates] Facebook has just announced that it is becoming a little more like Twitter, as the social networking giant is now adding hashtags to posts. For the uninitiated, users click hashtags and are taken to a... Read More , but independent research has shown that hashtags just aren’t working. Edgerank Checker shows that posts with hashtags actually receive slightly less attention than posts with hashtags. Which is surprising since most people would presume that Facebook users would click on the interesting hashtag to see what else has been tagged, thus finding your tagged content.

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After running the stats against Twitter hashtag usage, Edgerank Checker hit the nail on the head: Most of the Facebook posts to date containing hashtags are promotional, and not something regular people want to share or look into further. This means there is still a future for hashtags 3 Secret Ways To Use Hashtags You've Never Tried Before 3 Secret Ways To Use Hashtags You've Never Tried Before The basic purpose of a hashtag, of course, is to find a list of all posts about a certain topic, but why not take it out of the Web services that already integrate it, and... Read More on Facebook, but only when the regular users get the hang of them. Until then, it’s just campaign material, joke hashtags and the occasional enthusiastic person with 10 different hashtags to describe their lunch photo (no doubt cross-posted from Twitter Get Awesome Twitter Features On Facebook With This Neat Trick Get Awesome Twitter Features On Facebook With This Neat Trick In the world of social networks, there are two really big players: Facebook and Twitter. These are not the only players, not by a long shot, but with almost 150 million users on Twitter, and... Read More or Instagram). Bring on the future and get me out of #susanalbumparty How Not To Twitter: 7 Hashtag Fails To Learn From How Not To Twitter: 7 Hashtag Fails To Learn From This is a list of seven rather embarrassing hashtag fails that demonstrate how this simple shorthand can go horribly wrong. Thankfully, there are lessons to be learned here. Read More , I say.

Facebook-Hashtags-Page

Facebook’s hashtags are still evolving These 5 Useful Tools Will Help You Use Hashtags The Right Way These 5 Useful Tools Will Help You Use Hashtags The Right Way With so many hashtags out there, how can you tell which ones are best to use? Which are actually popular, and which ones did you just make up? What do some obscure hashtags even mean? Read More in terms of their display page as well as their usage. When viewing a hashtag on Facebook, users will see a “Most shared about #hashtag” section, posts with that hashtag by their friends, followed by a page of chronological updates using the hashtag. It’s not nearly as easy to filter as Twitter is (for instance, you can’t show posts just from people you follow The Ins And Outs Of Followers & Following [Weekly Facebook Tips] The Ins And Outs Of Followers & Following [Weekly Facebook Tips] If you're not Facebook friends with a person, how can they see your updates on their home page? If someone is following you, how can you stop them? What is this following thing anyway? Facebook... Read More or top contributors), but Twitter has had time to evolve their hashtag view pages somewhat. Facebook may yet improve on this front.

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Facebook Trending Topics

Facebook’s new Trending Topics are currently only for selected US users on the desktop web app, but will soon be rolled out worldwide and to mobile apps as well. Since we’ll all soon see these, it’s worth understanding exactly what makes them different from Facebook’s hashtags.

The Trending Topics have been calculated using Natural Language Processing. So every post on Facebook has been analysed carefully to determine the topic behind it. In essence, these Trending Topics are like super-hashtags that no-one needs to manually tag. Top topics will be spotted by how recently they surged on Facebook, plus how many people are currently engaging with the topic.

But it gets better than just pure computing genius. Facebook’s Trending Topics will be shown to us users according to the topics Facebook deduces each of us are actually interested in. Your topics will be chosen according to all the information Facebook has on you, such as: your friends, location, Pages you like, age, etc.

So, while I might see trending topics about Eurovision, most Americans would see trending topics about the Superbowl. I’m spared from the barrage of Superbowl information, and most of the world is spared from the weirdness that is Eurovision. We all win. In fact, US users will very soon get to see said Superbowl trending in action, which is no doubt the reason for the release of this feature right now.

Facebook-Trending 1

Trending Topics also means that important news items for your and your friends’ local area are likely to feature. For instance, earthquakes in New Zealand affect some of my friends and would no doubt be talked about by many of my Australian friends. I could hope to see these things trending alongside the more local goings-on in Paris. It should also make things of worldwide momentary interest even more notable, such as live rocket launches.

When Trending Topics rolls out, you’ll see three trending posts on the top-right of your news feed, where you’d currently expect to see the News Ticker. And unlike random hashtag names on both Facebook and Twitter, Trending Topics will make it easy to see what the news actually is and why it’s trending.

You should be presented with a news headline on the topic, when available. Clicking it will take you to a page about the topic. The page will show headlines, popular public updates and general chatter about the topic. Plus, you’ll see a selection of related topics to check out. In the future, we should be able to filter Trending Topics, but at the moment, we can at least rest assured that under-18s won’t see inappropriate topics while they are browsing.

So There’s No Choice?

In the end, this means there’s no real need to choose. If you feel like tagging your posts and joining the focused conversation on the topic, by all means do so. If you think hashtags are idiotic and you’d prefer to just have a rant about something, go ahead and do that. Facebook will still work out exactly what you’re talking about and share it with people who care. And there’s nothing remotely creepy about that, is there?

Privacy, Please

It’s always important to remember that with both hashtags and Trending Topics, public posts (or friends-of-friends posts) are more public than ever. Don’t forget to check your privacy settings Prepare Your Account Privacy For Facebook Graph Search [Weekly Facebook Tips] Prepare Your Account Privacy For Facebook Graph Search [Weekly Facebook Tips] Every time Facebook releases a new feature to learn more about our friends, many people realise that their privacy settings are not adequate anymore. Their latest new feature, Facebook Graph Search, is no exception -... Read More before you join the conversation. Even replying to a public comment makes your profile visible to the world, so make sure you’re prepared by re-evaluating your privacy settings How To Control Your Privacy With The Facebook Timeline How To Control Your Privacy With The Facebook Timeline While the new Facebook timeline looks fantastic, there are a few privacy concerns worth keeping in mind. For most people, certain things will need adjusting before you can be completely sure that your posts aren't... Read More .

  1. MsKayle
    January 24, 2014 at 11:02 am

    I could care less for trending topics, there should be a way to either turn it off or block it. I don't use twitter and could care less.

  2. Julian Sore
    January 22, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I really don't care for trending topics! My facebook is currently showing Arnold Sch, Andy Murray and Stan Collymore. All three people and subjects I have absolutely no interest in whats so ever. Why can't facebook give us the option to simply "Turn it off" !!!!!!

    If I wanted to hashtag and have trending topics, I would get twitter. I don't have twitter, and I don't want it!

    • Angela A
      January 28, 2014 at 9:31 am

      That's annoying. The whole point is that they're supposed to get it right!

  3. Finn
    January 22, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I've never clicked any hashtag nor wrote one. Mainly because in Poland they don't really work too good. The idea is good but in most cases people use them as an emoticon to describe their feelings :/ Once I used some Android app to find content from people around my location and... oh boy, what a mess it was. Twitter notes or Instagram photos were mostly described by using hashtags that made no sense at all.

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