I used to think Facebook trending topics were clearly better than Twitter, but the World Cup has changed my mind


When Facebook decided to copy Twitter and launch its own version of trending topics, I was all whatever about it. Then I noticed the brief but absolutely helpful context Facebook offered in its version. It reminded me of the short-lived Twitter client Brizzly which I used mostly because it explained what the fuck people on Twitter were talking about. Just take a look at Twitter's trending topic (left) list vs. Facebook (right) to see why this is helpful.

But then the World Cup (like it did for vuvuzelas) changed everything. Without a doubt the Twitter mobile experience of the World Cup is superior to what Facebook offers through a full browser.

Facebook basically gives you non-prioritized feed of crap related to the current match, which is something Twitter used to be known for -- feeds of crap. Facebook also offers recent match results and a countdown timer to upcoming matches. The latter is useful and interesting, but doesn't come close to what Twitter provides. Here's the Facebook World Cup page:

Facebook's inferior curation of World Cup-related Facebook content leaves much to be desired. 

Meanwhile, unlike the noisy and confusing generic trending topics list, Twitter has bothered to organize your experience of the World Cup on mobile. The main screen says "Get instant updates and all the behind-the-scenes action from World Cup 2014," then offers three tabs: Tweets, Photos, and Matches.

When you go to Matches, like Facebook you see the score of any current match, and you see the upcoming time for the next three matches. Most interesting, you can click on a match and just look at Tweets and Photos for that match. Bonus offer is the "People" tab under a single match which shows and gives you the option to follow accounts related to either team. Here's what that People tab looks like. 

Twitter shows you how it's done when offering deep social coverage of a live event series.

The World Cup really drives home the differences in what Facebook and Twitter offer. For a surface level understanding of a trending topic list, Facebook wins hands down. With Twitter, you're left wondering, "WTF is #5SOSTheAlbum, and why should I care?" Facebook solves it with a caption, and if you click on a single topic, you get actual news stories that are relevant and not just a bunch of Blieber wannabes declaring their love.

But when it comes to depth of coverage for a live event, at least one on the order of a World Cup, Twitter shows you that it can truly help you make sense of that event and bring you closer to it by bringing you the images and people involved. 

Now I just have a few demands of both companies:

  • Twitter, please copy the Facebook/Brizzly model of offering a 60-100 character explanation of what the fuck is going on in your left column from a trending topic perspective.
  • Facebook, please copy the investment Twitter has made in the World Cup. You've got too many users across the planet to not help them all make more sense of what's happening. Do a better job of integrating, packaging, and segmenting all the bits. You'd be much better if you simply copied the Twitter build, but given your size and relationships, you could integrate media (especially video) and my friend network in more interesting ways. Just at "see which of your friends gives a shit about the World Cup" would be valuable and might lead to some un-friending of folks who can't be bothered with the greatest event series in world history.
  • Twitter, please don't limit your organization of the chaos to the World Cup. I would love to see this model applied to other major shared events like the Super Bowl, Oscars, Presidential Debates, and more. It helps if the event is more than a few hours, so the NCAA Tournament seems especially worth it, but long term I'd love to see it applied to anything truly newsworthy, as opposed to just popular-among-children-who-neither-vote-nor-know-anything.

That seems to me a pretty humble request, and as an active user on each of your platforms within the first year of your existence, I feel justified in saying, come on let's get to it!