It was reported by The Telegraphs’s James Titcomb on Monday that Facebook is on the verge of 2 billion members.

The social network is even defying expectations by continuing to grow despite its size, with growth actually accelerating in recent quarters.

Facebook is expected to report report revenues of $7.8 billion and profits of $3.3 billion when it unveils first quarter results this week. Yes, that’s only for a quarter.

In reading a piece in Adweek that social media is the new television by Kurt Abrahamsom, the CEO of ShareThis, I couldn’t help but think of lawyers holding onto the past when it comes to Facebook.

With the rise of television in the 1950s, marketers gained access to a new medium that was growing rapidly popular. With all eyes on the only screen in the house, brands benefited from its wide reach to engage consumers at an unprecedented scale.

However, the audience’s attention is increasingly turning away from television and moving toward mobile devices and social media.

This represents a huge opportunity for brands, per Abrahamson. Brands can connect with people on social media channels in a personalized way. “Brands looking to strengthen their customer relationships should start with the personalization of social…”

Yet the vast majority lawyers, who need to have a brand, ignore Facebook when it comes to building a name, establishing trust and growing a network for business.

Most law firms not only tacitly go along with the lawyers, but establish a marketing culture where Facebook is viewed as below their lawyers for business development purposes. “If Facebook is to be used, it’s only for personal purposes.”

Some firms won’t even allow their lawyers to log in to Facebook on company machines. Crazy, but true.

I ran across a panel discussion among legal marketing “experts” discussing web marketing best practices for the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today.

Admittedly the panel’s focus was websites, but the implication was clear. Drawing traffic and getting attention is the name of the game for business development success when it comes to the Internet.

One of the experts said “Blog frequently on your firm’s website (not somewhere else). Postings that address frequently asked questions (FAQs) are a great way to start.”

Lost on him, as he hasn’t networked online to build a name and relationships, is that blogging is all about leaving your website and going out and engaging others – listening to the conversation off your website being the most important concept.

Facebook, with virtually every American using it, represents a town hall discussion, with the people involved and the topics discussed framed by who you engage and what you share. Facebook’s algorithms will surface relevant discussion and people for you.

Lawyers and law firms need to let go of viewing the Internet as an opportunity to broadcast. Like televison, the opportunity to reach people at an unprecedented scale is addicting. But people have moved on to social networks, primarily Facebook, to communicate and engage with each other.

Lawyers have become accustomed to email and cell phones as a means of communicating for business development. Facebook is arguably just as essential for business developmet today.

Yesterday, leading blogger, tech evangelist and speaker, Robert Scoble shared on Facebook eight ways to get him to “Delete Request” when you request his friendship on Facebook.

I thought Robert’s points were pretty good and mirrored some of my thinking when I get friend requests.

  1. Don’t have any public posts in past month. Automatically gets me to click “delete request.
  2. Don’t list your job title on your Intro/Profile/About.
  3. Don’t post anything interesting about the tech industry in your past 20 posts.
  4. Don’t have at least 20 mutual friends (I have more than 4,000, it shouldn’t be that hard). Even a few is better than zero. Particularly useful to figure out if someone is a real member of the mixed reality community.
  5. Don’t have a real photo of yourself anywhere.
  6. Don’t make it possible to follow you so I can dip my toe in the water.
  7. Post only selfies.
  8. Only post quotes or those stupid posts with the color background.

I’m not near as popular as Robert, I don’t get the requests he gets and I don’t have the number of Facebook friends he does.

But I am cognoscent of a number things when considering friend requests.

  • Facebook caps the number of friends at 5,000. I am only North of 1,500 friends now, but things have a way of growing on the net.
  • Whether people regularly post things of interest to me. I often receive Facebook requests from people who have posted little more than profile pictures over the last year.
  • Complete profile listings – job title, contact into etc. I am not likely to friend people who are looking to be private on Facebook.
  • Diverse interests and offerings. In addition to Facebook friends in the legal industry, my friends include journalists, corporate executives, authors, artists, college professors, financiers and others — in addition to personal friends. The more interesting and diverse my friends, the more value I’ll receive from my Newsfeed and the more interesting the people I get to know.
  • Mutual friends. When I reach out to request friendship I look for people with whom I have at least 20 to 30 mutual friends. Common friends is something I also consider with requests.
  • Sharing of both personal and professional items. It’s a combination of both that lets me get to know people.
  • Post only their own articles and blog posts. Too many lawyers use Facebook as a distribution channel, as opposed to an engagement channel.

So it’s not that I don’t like you, that I don’t wnat to get to know you or don’t want to do business with you. If I delete your friend request on Facebook, it’s because of the things Scoble or I may consider.

There has been a lot of discussion of late about fake news on Facebook.

Some folks believe fake news affected the outcome of the presidential election. One law professor recently told me that most of the stuff on Facebook was fabricated. It won’t be too long before I’ll be at conference where lawyers will be told to stear clear of Facebook because of hoaxes and fake news.

Big mistake. Less than one percent of news and information on Facebook is fake. That’s probably about the same as mainstream media.

Also not to be lost on you, as a lawyer, is that Facebook has almost 2 billion users, and that 44 percent of Americans get their news from the social network. If you’re not sharing information and commentary on Facebook you’re missing a huge opportunity.

I’m with Mark Zuckerberg who recently posted,

Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.

Having said that, Zuckerberg is looking to limit the fake news that there is and show people that they will find meaningful content and accurate news on Facebook.

Zuckerberg knows he must proceed carefully when you get into “the truth” and censorship, let alone Facebook’s desire to maintain its status as a technology company and avoid the responsibilities that come with being a media company.

Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.

David Pogue, reports in Scientific American this week that Facebook has already taken action.

  1. If you tap the V button at the top right of a post and then choose “Report this post,” you’ll see a new option called “It’s a fake news story.” On the next screen, you’ll have a choice of options, including “Mark this post as fake news.” (Other options include “Message Chris Robin” [or whomever posted the story] to let them know they fell for it.)
  2. If enough people flag a story as fake, it will be sent to a fact-checking organization like Snopes.com or PolitiFact. And if the outfit determines that yes, the story is bogus, it will appear on Facebook with a red banner that says, “Disputed by Third-Party Fact Checkers.” That banner will include a link to the fact checkers’ article explaining why the story is false. The stories still appear, but with flags that identify them as phony and lower in your News Feed.
  3. Facebook will employ software and algorithms to help identify fake stories. For example, Facebook has learned that when lots of people read a certain article but then don’t share it, it’s often because the story is phony.
  4. Facebook is trying to shut down the financial incentive for fakers. Its engineers have eliminated the ability for the fakers to create Web sites that impersonate actual news sites, for example. And the company will analyze sites that draw ad dollars from Facebook traffic, and will cut them off if they’re in the business of fake-news fraud.

Though cynics argue that fake news generates eyeballs and ad revenue for Facebook, people use Facebook because of the value it brings to their lives. Value comes from accurate information and news — and the engagement that ensues.

Gaming a popular site is not without precedent. A whole SEO industry has sprung up to game Google in an effort to get Google users to visit third-party sites lacking valuable information. Through software and algorithms, Google reduced the junk to a minimum – enough so that the world uses Google as the leading source of information — including lawyers for a lot of legal research.

The above four steps are just a start, Facebook has the brightest social engineers in the world working for them. If anyone can eliminate fake news, they can.

How we receive news and information has changed dramatically in the last decade. Television news, newspapers and news websites carried the day five or six years.

Today, people receive news socially – from people they trust. Facebook, as the largest social network is likely to become the leading source of accurate news and information for Americans.

Facebook Live provides law firms the opportunity to present streaming news and information to their target audience without going through an intermediary.

Think about how Facebook Live broadcasts compare to the status quo of getting lawyers on traditional video broadcast, television.

Get marketing and public relationships professionals working on “packaging” particular lawyers. Public relations then works their contacts with the networks or local television. Then jump on things when breaking news arises or look for opportunities to get on television with evergreen information and coverage.

When successful, something that’s far from given, you need to wonder if your target audience actually saw the lawyer on TV. Did the influential reporters and bloggers, who are active on social media and who influence your audience, see the lawyer?

Because most of the target audience did not see the lawyer on TV, you’ll do a press release and announce on social media that the lawyer was on TV. Doing such a press release, something traditionally looked at as pretty cool, can seem awfully lame today.

How seamless is Facebook Live? On Monday morning I got word, via Facebook Live, of the shooting of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey. The live Facebook feed was coming from the news agency, RT.

In addition to the horror of the recorded video of the shooting that RT was running along with its Facebook Live reports from the scene, I was struck by the concept that Facebook was bringing me news of the day, live.

I didn’t click on anything. I happened to be on Facebook as part of my own networking and sharing. Up came RT’s live feed at the top of my Facebook News Feed.

Admittedly I use social media more than most legal professionals, but I am old enough to be amazed that Facebook was bringing my news live—from across the world, with footage caught on a smartphone, presented to me on my iPad on a cellular connection as I had my morning coffee at the kitchen table.

My news, not via The New York Times app (which is pretty fast), not via a news site like CNN (which I hardly use), not via reading The New York Times newspaper (which I no longer do for “current news”), or via watching traditional network TV news (which I never do). Live news “floating” in front of me.

Later Monday, I received news of the truck driving into a Christmas crowd in Berlin the same way. Facebook Live coverage, again from RT, a network I have not “liked” on Facebook—ever.

What’s RT streaming Facebook Live from its Facebook page have to do with a law firm? Everything.

If a lawyer or practice group wants to engage a niche audience, say immigration law for healthcare institutions, they could do a lot worse than a lawyer jumping on Facebook live and reporting on relevant developments. Perhaps even interviewing fellow leaders on immigration law or health care HR executives on Facebook Live.

Facebook will see to it it that the firm’s target audience will see the video. Some of those viewing the video will share, like and comment on the video. Maybe the world won’t see it, but a couple or three hundred folks will see it. And they’ll be a significant percentage of the target audience the firm is looking to reach.

I ran into a veteran law firm marketing professional and told her of this post and the opportunities that await law firms in using Facebook Live. She explained that law firms were neither equipped nor ready for Facebook Live. She’s excellent in the work she does, but raised the reality that large law was not prepared to address Facebook Live.

Ready or not, Facebook Live is already a reality in major industries, including healthcare, a huge markets for law.

Beth Snyder Bulik, writing on Facebook Live for FiercePharma noted:

[S]everal hospitals including the Mayo Clinic, UNC Healthcare and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin [are] successfully using Facebook Live with live-streaming events such as “ask a doctor” sessions, lectures, fundraisers, and guided tours. UNC Healthcare, in fact, reported results of its Facebook Live streaming that included a 480% increase in daily interactions and a 75% increase of page likes in the first six months. One of its live chats about the Affordable Care Act has been replayed more than 2,000 times.

Mark Zuckerberg is pushing Facebook Live harder than any other feature on his social network. New features for video and Live are coming every couple weeks. He’s weaving Facebook Live into the fabric of our Facebook use, the latest being videos being displayed across the top of mobile apps and a video icon at the bottom to take us to recent “Live” recordings.

Rather than doing what other firms are doing, law firms would be well served to focus on where the world is headed. Facebook Live.

Lawyers often dismiss Facebook for purposes of business and professional development.

Looking to Facebook, if at all, for only personal matters, lawyers and law firms look to LinkedIn first when it comes to business development.

But per a national survey released by the Pew Research Center last week, Facebook is America’s most popular social networking platform by a substantial margin.

Nearly eight-in-ten online Americans (79%) now use Facebook, more than double the share that uses Twitter (24%), Pinterest (31%), Instagram (32%) or LinkedIn (29%). On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all), that means that 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, while 28% use Instagram, 26% use Pinterest, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter.

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Lawyers should note that Facebook’s growth comes in large part from the growing number of older adults who are joining the site. 72% of those age 50 to 64 and 62% of those over age 65 now use Facebook.

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In addition to Facebook’s number of users being up 7% over last year, the share of Facebook users who use it daily increased. 76% of Americans who use Facebook visit the site on a daily basis, up from 70% in 2015.

I use Facebook, like many lawyers, to share personal items (family, sports, news) and business items (blog posts, business news).

The engagement on these items, mostly from lawyers and business people, is far greater than on LinkedIn, Twitter or comments on my blog.

This engsgement leads to getting to know people, meeting them and new business.

Just last week I had a meeting with the new head of Bloomberg Law and agreed to meet with one of the largest law firms in the country, both the result of Facebook exchanges on personal matters the day or two before.

Business development is all about relationships. To build and nurture relationships, you need to go where the people are. For lawyers — and for everyone else — that’s Facebook.

The New York Times’ Liz Spayd (@spaydl) offers her critique of four months of Facebook Live videos from the Times. “A few earned gold medals. Several others finished strong. And a lot should never have made the team.”

Her point being that although some of the live video hit the mark, much of it did not live up to the Times’ standards. On Facebook, Spayd says “The NYT was smart to join up with FB to produce Live video. But it’s time to pause and reboot.”

I follow the Times on Facebook and am friends on Facebook with a good number of the Times’ reporters and editors. I am because of the things the Times has being doing on social media since its Innovation Report 2014 — as well as the quality of its journalism.

The Times’ Facebook live videos I have seen have been pretty good. Far higher quality than I have seen by others.

Even if I didn’t watch the whole video, the fact that the Times was letting its hair down connected with me in a real and authentic way – more likely to keep my subscription, pick up the paper with coffee in the morning and share their stories on Twitter and Facebook.

Watching a Times’ editor, that I am not sure has ever been on video, describe how overnight news has changed forever in the day of social media was wonderful. It caused me to pause and imagine a day at the Times when he first started and how dramatic the change has been in the last twenty or thirty years.

The Times catching David Axelrod in the hallway at the Democratic National Convention for an informal conversation where the reporter and Axelrod were relaxed, laughing and authentic is a view we don’t get of the newsmakers and the people who bring us the news.

Watching a Times’ reporter do her job, including calling a multi-billion company, whose trading on the stock exchange had just been frozen by the SEC for suspect trading, was great stuff. She went on to explain what her next steps were in accessing records (displaying her search on the screen) when she couldn’t get anyone at the company.

Social media is learned by trial and error. People play and have fun. The Times is learning, other media companies and papers are not learning like the Times.

Social media is having your news shared and distributed by those who trust you. Trust is established by hanging out with us – the people hanging out on social media reading and sharing news. Facebook Live, as the Times’ reporters and editors use it, builds trust and makes each of the reporters and editors of Times’ one of us.

Kudos to the Times for using Facebook Live. The last thing the Times and its editors, such as Spayd, should be doing is critiquing its reporters and editors who are learning to use new media and learning to connect with people in a real and authentic way.

Sure, point out what’s good, as Spayd does, and look for opportunities to improve, but give the folks out using Facebook Live a pat on the back. It’s good stuff.

Steve Rubel (@steverubel), Chief Content Strategist for Edelman, writes at Adage, Facebook Signals Institutions Are Out, Indidividuals Are In.

The same is true for law firms and individual law bloggers when it comes to posts and distribution on Facebook. Law firm pages for distribution of content are out. Individual lawyers sharing their blog posts in their personal Facebook updates is in.

Facebook announced last week it was building a better News Feed. The emphasis would be to prioritize posts from family and friends over content from publishers. Publishers includes both news publishers and companies that are publishing.

That’s great news for individual blogging lawyers and bad news for law firms looking to engage or publish via Facebook pages. Note that for a blogging lawyer, “Friends” on Facebook, in addition to family and personal friends, includes business associates, clients, prospective clients, and influencers (reporters, bloggers and association leaders).

Facebook has always been about connecting people. As Facebook’s audience grew to heights never expected, publishers looked to Facebook as a means of distribution.

With Facebook’s Instant Articles feature and a split of ad revenue with major publishers, Facebook sucked publishers in all the more. When Facebook Pages didn’t work in getting content in people’s News Feeds, Facebook allowed publishers and brands to pay extra to “Boost” their posts.

But Facebook’s announcement turns the lights out on publishers who publish as a brand, including law firms.

As reported by Mike Issac (@MikeIssac) and Sydney Ember (@melbournecoal) of The New York Times.

The changes will affect all types of content posted by publishers, including links, videos, live videos and photos. Facebook said it expected a drop in reach and referral traffic for publishers whose audience comes primarily to content posted by the publisher’s official Facebook page. Facebook plans to start making the changes as soon as this week.

Note the difference for individuals who are publishers and sharing on Facebook.

It will have less of an impact, however, if most of a publisher’s traffic comes from individual users sharing and commenting on their stories and videos. As has long been the case, publisher content that your friends interact with will appear higher in the feed compared to posts shared directly by a publisher.

Publishers took the news as expected, complaining that what Facebook giveth they taketh away and saying that people’s News Feeds would be filled with wedding announcements and puppy pictures.

But as Rubel says, Facebook was providing direction on how to get your publications seen.

Facebook’s public posture is clear: No organization will ever be on the same footing as peers. While on the surface this appears to de-emphasize institutions, the reality is that it gives every company — the press included — a clear roadmap for how to build organic engagement at a critical time.

With trust in institutions at all-time lows, facilitating peer-to-peer connections is no longer a nice-to-do but a must-do.

………

Peer-to-peer influence is more powerful today than top-down communications.

For law firms this means working with your lawyer bloggers so they understand how to extend their personal reach and trust on Facebook.

The road to organic reach and trust is built gradually by creating true one-to-one connections between employees and individuals. It’s a long process that requires patience to build earned one-to-one relationships between individuals that lead to a many-to-many scale. It’s networked thinking for a networked world. Paid plays a big role, but only to amplify.

The way forward for brands and media owners is simple. Invest in Facebook people, more so than pages. Activate as many credible employee voices as possible who are willing to make at least some of their content available publicly to subscribers.

……

In a corporate marketing context, it means activating internal subject-matter experts in the same manner and thinking about how to link them together to create true network effects.

I exchanged notes with Rubel on Facebook (after seeing his Adage article which he personally shared) about Facebook’s announcement making all the sense in the world. Social media, including blogging, has always been about real and authentic engagement between people. Facebook reminded us of this.

And like Rubel writes, “[W]hile the focus was on the impact on publishers, every institution should be paying attention.” Including law firms.

A lawyer from Wyoming asked me this morning, “LinkedIn group or Facebook?” Which would I suggest for a group of international lawyers who he met at a conference recently to use for staying in touch, collaborating, exchanging ideas and maybe even referrals.

He directed me to a post of mine from six years ago in which I said LinkedIn groups have it all over Facebook groups for lawyers. My opinion has changed.

Today, I’d go with Facebook groups over LinkedIn groups.

Facebook has become part of the fabric of our lives. We turn to Facebook all of the time for personal exchanges as well as for news and information. LinkedIn, though widely used, does not garner near as much mindshare for engagement with others.

I am personally aware of two groups in the legal profession using a Facebook group with great success. A group of legal marketing professionals nationwide and a group of Texas family law lawyers. I participate in the first group. I find both the information exchanged and camaraderie extremely valuable.

I am told by one of our members that the family law lawyers group is very active for information exchange and reputation building. She tells me she gets referrals from lawyers she meets in the group.

Facebook is where the people are today. Facebook is where people spend their time.

More people use Facebook more of the time than any other social network, including LinkedIn, by far. Over 90% of those over age 34 use Facebook and they spend over 900 minutes a month on the social network. LinkedIn is not even close in users nor in the time spent on the network (less than 20 minutes a month on average).

Facebook also has more of an intuitive feel on mobile than LinkedIn. That’s important when mobile represents two of three minutes we spend online.

Lawyers in a Facebook group will receive a non-obtrusive notice on their smartphone that someone has added a post to the group or liked/commented on something the member posted or liked/commented upon.

Finally, God only knows where LinkedIn is going to end up. I love the company (have paid them $200/month for years). I use LinkedIn for connections and limited engagement. But companies acquired by Microsoft often lose their focus and have not done well.

Facebook, with Zuckerberg leading the way, is going to remain focused on connecting people and enabling communication/sharing/collaboration to facilitate these connections. Improvements and features for further commenting people will come at the rate of a half dozen a month.

Don’t dismiss ‘befriending’ on Facebook the people you have meet personally either. Getting outside a group can bring broader exchange and learning.

I liberally use Facebook to meet and get to know new people. Whether it’s professional or personal items that are posted, I receive value and get to know people as people. Plus the Facebook algorithms work wonderfully to further refine and improve my News Feed.

I found I interesting what I had to say about Facebook groups seven years. I suggested LinkedIn for professional engagement then, but

I’ll admit Facebook has all the appearance of becoming the central nervous system of Internet communication, collaboration, community building, and networking. AOL ruled the Internet in the mid and late 90’s, acting as the de facto entry to the net for everyone. Facebook, with its rapid growth and the features it’s adding, feels that way today.

Well, Facebook rules the Internet today. I’d go Facebook group over LinkedIn group for lawyer exchange and engagement.

It’s disappointing that more professionals, especially lawyers, do not use social media to engage and get to know others.

If not in the true sense of getting to know someone, at least in the sense of getting to know someone as a trusted source of information and letting others to know the lawyer as a trusted source of information, news and commentary.

Monday morning I saw a Facebook post from New York Times columnist, Samuel Freedman, relating the Birmingham church bombing of the 1960’s to Sunday morning’s events in Orlando.

Freedman’s piece hit home as I found that the Orlando killings really hit me. I felt numb for much of the next couple days, much like I did with events of the 60’s ala the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Facebook enabled me to like and comment on Freedman’s piece. He recognized my comment with a like. Not too make too big a deal out of it, but I was in effect engaging this author and professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

No question I am more likely to recognize and read his pieces in the New York Times and read and engage his posts on Facebook.

I don’t know Freedman as “a friend.” I connected with him on Facebook when Facebook suggested him as a possible “Facebook friend.” Seeing his stature and that he was sharing items that could bring value to my life, I sent him a friend request. Freedman accepted, it was probably months ago.

Imagine you as a lawyer building a network of friends, colleagues and business associates on Facebook. When you share news items or blog posts on Facebook you would then be truly engaging people. People would get to know you and to trust you.

And know that it’s only a very small step from being a trust source of information and commentary to getting a call or a referral when someone is need of a lawyer.

Unfortunately, the majority of lawyers and law firms look at Facebook and other social media as distribution channels for content in order to grab mindshare as opposed to a place for engagement. Engagement that leads to relationships and a word of mouth reputation.

That’s disappointing at a time when lawyers are struggling to do the work they want to do and pouring money into Internet marketing that’s bringing mixed results, at best.

Slow down a bit and get to know people on social media. Engage others. Build trust. It really works.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Frank DiBona

News broke a few days ago on Gizmodo that former Facebook workers were possibly suppressing news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s “Trending Topics” section.

Trending topics displays three or four items on the right side of one’s News Feed that are proving popular in discussion among Facebook users. “Trending Topics” is displayed on desktops and tablets, but for lack of space not on smart phones, the leading device for Facebook use.

All Hell has broke loose since the Gizmodo story. Conservative or liberal, people are upset that Facebook was using humans to edit the news.

U.S. Senator, John Thune from South Dakota is demanding that Facebook explain how it handles its “trending” list. As reported by the New York Times, Thune wants Facebook to provide information about any articles that may have been suppressed because they were too conservative.

Facebook is supposed to go back and review every news story shared by users, except for the handful that got pushed to Trending Topics each day, to see if a story not displayed had a “conservative” bent?

The Facebook suppressing story, thinly sourced at best, is all about nothing. Of course there is going to be a human element in filtering stories. Algorithms to isolate stories for surfacing are human created. Once surfaced, there’s value in humans doing a double check to determin what goes live.

Then we have this First Amendment thing, a lynchpin for what makes this country great. People, including organizations, are entitled to say and print what they want. No matter how popular Facebook is, neither the masses nor the government can regulate its speech.

Bottom line, I don’t believe Facebook filtered out conservative stories.

From Facebook’s VP of Global Operations, Justin Osofsky, here’s how Trending Topics works,

Surfaced by algorithm

Potential Trending Topics are first surfaced by an algorithm that identifies topics that have recently spiked in popularity on Facebook (in other words, ones that have a high volume of mentions and a sharp increase in mentions over a short period of time). The Trending Topics algorithm also uses an external RSS website crawler to identify breaking events so that we can connect people to conversations on Facebook about newsworthy events as quickly as possible. A list of included websites is available here.

Reviewed by the Trending Topics team

Members of the Trending team look at potential Trending Topics as they are surfaced by the algorithm and do the following:

  • Confirm that the topic is tied to a current news event in the real world (for example, the topic “#lunch” is talked about during lunch every day around the world, but will not be a trending topic).
  • Write a topic description with information that is corroborated by reporting from at least three of a list of more than a thousand media outlets. A list of these media outlets is available here.
  • Apply a category label to the topic (e.g. sports, science) to help with personalized ranking and to enable suggestions grouped by category for the various tabs on the desktop version.
  • Check to see whether the topic is national or global breaking news that is being covered by most or all of ten major media outlets— and if it is, the topic is given an importance level that may make the topic more likely to be seen. A list of these outlets is available in the guidelines.

Personalized

The list of Trending Topics is then personalized for each user via an algorithm that relies on a number of factors, including the importance of the topic, Pages a person has liked, location (e.g.. home state sports news), feedback provided by the user about previous Trending Topics and what’s trending across Facebook overall. Not everyone sees the same topics at the same time.

Facebook exists as a giant town square and forum for discussion and sharing.

People are going to differ, some vehemently, as to whether their position is aired as much as it should be. The minute someone cries evil and conspiracy in suppressing something someone said things get real crazy. It happens everywhere – television, radio, newspapers, city council meetings, school board meetings and now Facebook.

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg posted yesterday his response to the controversy, first explaining what Facebook stands for.

Facebook stands for giving everyone a voice. We believe the world is better when people from different backgrounds and with different ideas all have the power to share their thoughts and experiences. That’s what makes social media unique. We are one global community where anyone can share anything — from a loving photo of a mother and her baby to intellectual analysis of political events.

To serve our diverse community, we are committed to building a platform for all ideas. Trending Topics is designed to surface the most newsworthy and popular conversations on Facebook. We have rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives.

And then addressing the allegations on targeted content filtering on Trending Topics.

We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product.

We have found no evidence that this report is true. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it.

In the coming weeks, I’ll also be inviting leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum to talk with me about this and share their points of view. I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible.

The reason I care so much about this is that it gets to the core of everything Facebook is and everything I want it to be. Every tool we build is designed to give more people a voice and bring our global community together. For as long as I’m leading this company this will always be our mission.

I take Zuckerberg at his word. He and his company are founded on free speech. Facebook gives people who have never had a voice a true voice. People can network to grow reputations and influence like they never have before.

The fact that commercial enterprises want to advertise and sell their wares around the most popular forum in the world is hardly a surprise. Look at the town squares that surround county court houses and city halls in virtually every small city in this country.

Rather than get freaked out about Facebook filtering content by algorithms and people to facilitate discussion, people ought to look at Facebook as a gift.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Allesio Jacona