The Trending Topics section of Facebook has become, well, a trending topic. Tech blog Gizmodo reports Facebook has downplayed conservative news in the “trending” section on the right of the desktop screen (in the search bar on mobile,) opting for a more liberal slant. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has taken it seriously enough to discuss it both on the social media site and in person with conservative leaders. And, even though Facebook says it found “no evidence of systematic political bias,” still “its guidelines have been clarified and reviewers have undergone refresher training ‘that emphasized content decision may not be made one the basis of politics or ideology.’”
What’s important about this, is Trending Topics is supposed to identify topics that have “spiked in popularity on the site.” But, in this case, the assertion is that Facebook has tricked us into believing topics IT likes are trending. It’s a really interesting study in news aggregation, something those of us in the Public Relations business pay attention to every day. We work to see that our clients are well represented in the news…sharing their good news when it’s appropriate and stepping up through crisis communications when the news isn’t so positive.
We often depend upon Facebook as a part of a solid PR plan that includes social media outreach. Stone Ward works with clients on engaging content to drive awareness and, ultimately, business. News of our clients is shared organically and virally, and we direct people to Facebook through additional marketing and PR channels.
But, if Facebook is going to start behaving more like an “editor,” as these allegations would indicate, we’ll once again have to reevaluate the way we work with the social medium. This isn’t new to us, in fact, it’s on-going. Slate.com calls Facebook’s algorithm, “a closely guarded and constantly shifting formula,” and it’s something we pay attention to. It has ultimately changed the way we frame stories and share information.
One of our guiding principles is to “always be a student,” so we stay on top of Facebook and Trending Topics, conservative or liberal and every point in between, and we put that news acumen to work for our clients. We can put that news judgement to work for you and help make your business a topic that trends.
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