Have you heard of Facebook's "Hot Topics" reports?
In December last year, Facebook introduced a new monthly report via their Facebook IQ blog called "Hot Topics". "Hot Topics" is just as it sounds, a listing of all the most discussed topics across the Facebook eco-system for the previous month. The December 2014 report was a basic word cloud type report, split by genders and age groups, showing who was talking about what for the month:
It's a pretty simple, yet interesting report on what's popular among Facebook audiences, providing insight into what topics were gaining the most traction among Facebook users. Since its launch, Facebook has upgraded the "Hot Topics report - the March 2015 version came in a whole new format, with a bubble chart representing overall mentions and a pulse graph highlighting discussion peaks within each demographic segment:
This was an improvement, there's more data here to go through and more insights to be gained, and in April 2015 they took it a step further. The previous "Hot Topics" reports only covered US audiences, but from April onwards, Facebook introduced regional versions, covering the US, Australia, Canada and the UK:
This is a great addition - getting regional insights always poses something of a challenge, so to have Facebook separate them out for you is a helpful step, and one which will benefit a heap of businesses seeking to utilize the available data. But how can you utilize this data, exactly? Most of it is what you'd expect, the peaks and peak topics all correlate with what you likely already know - so why are these insights of any significant value for brands looking to better utilize Facebook?
1. Improved Audience Understanding
It's one thing to know what your audience is into - it's another thing to know, definitively, what your audience is all about. Facebook's "Hot Topics" reports provide additional insight into what's being discussed amongst the various demographic brackets, providing concrete data on what's resonating within each group. Rather than getting a feel for what's of interest, this data shows you what's most popular - and the insights provided can be somewhat surprising. For instance, while I'd assume that young men would be driving the conversation around the PlayStation 4, I wouldn't have assumed young women would be the ones most actively discussing "Jurassic World".
Such insights can help guide your content plans, structuring your Facebook posts around what's more likely to resonate amongst your target audience.
2. Historic Activity
Using the peak audience pulse graph, you can cross match previous reports to come up with better understandings of when, historically, your target audience is more likely to be online, and what types of conversations and topics are more likely to inspire them to get on Facebook and comment.
Using this, you can structure your content and posting habits around what's more likely to reach your audience - if you know, for instance, that all the topics resonating with older females relate to political-type discussion, you can use the latest news announcements in that area as a trigger for you to increase your activity or post content related to that topic to join the conversation (contextual relevance in mind, of course). The fact that these topics inspire interaction and activity shows that these are also the issues that these audience segments are passionate about - remember, this is a measure of discussion, of things people have actually posted about. If people feel inspired to actually put down their own thoughts, not just click "Like", that signals more engagement, meaning they're likely of more interest to that person, or those people.
3. Facebook-Specific Focus
While the biggest news stories and discussions are pretty well-known across the board, this data is important because it shows you what people are posting about and sharing on the Facebook platform specifically. This is great psychological insight into why and how people use Facebook - what people choose to share is an important measure, as it highlights, in a way, why they're using Facebook at all. If, for instance, you could see that middle-aged males are mostly talking about sport, that's a pretty strong indicator of how they see the platform - they're not using Facebook to talk about politics or the latest news stories, they're going there to share more casual, recreational discussion, likely showing that they see Facebook as a break from work. Given that, maybe posting about the latest business discussion won't be as resonant as a more casually-toned update or something that highlights a different, more personable angle of your business.
Each platform has its own personality and quirks - it may be that in your region, your Facebook profile should take less of a hard business focus, while your LinkedIn presence stays on point with the numbers and data. The "Hot Topics" reports can provide additional insight in this regard, and may help build better understanding of what will work better in your messaging.
Even without a specific business angle, Facebook's "Hot Topics" reports are a fascinating read. The addition of the new charts and features has improved their overall functionality and presentation, and the data provides some great insights into what's being discussed on Facebook - much of it reinforcing what you'd expect, but some also highlighting perspectives you may not have considered, and those angles could help in your overall Facebook planning process.