Will Facebook’s trending topics be a boon to brands?

The short answer is yes, but if Facebook history is any indication, only for the brands that are willing to pay up.

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More than anything, Facebook might be starting to tip its hand on where it’s going with real-time marketing opportunities for brands.

To start, Facebook’s list of what’s trending is not much more than a handy tool for users to understand very quickly what people are talking about. If history is any indication, though, it’ll soon be an advertising venue. The question is whether people will pay attention as they do to Twitter’s trends or just ignore it.

A brand-jacking service?

What this could create is an avenue for paid corporate brand-jacking. Here’s a scenario:

In the middle of the Super Bowl, the stadium loses power. The lights go out. Oreo and Chips Ahoy—bitter rivals in the billion-dollar cookie game—both have teams in place to come up with content at a moment’s notice.

Oreo comes up with a funny “Dunk in the Dark” image and shares it on Facebook. Chips Ahoy comes up with something, too. Not as funny, but still clever. If Chips Ahoy is paying Facebook to have its content sponsored in real time, their post will jump to the top no matter how much lamer it is than the unsponsored post.

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