Twitter uses a hash mark (#) system to track conversations on the platform. What does this mean to the business owner? Well, when you have a large number of followers on Twitter it becomes very easy to notice if there is a large trend being made. It becomes relatively easy to follow along and notice the trends that other followers are noting. This is useful to identify a need for your product or service and to build a following around a certain segment of customers. Trending on Twitter also helps to create buzz about a business and its offerings.
In Facebook, similarly, a hash mark, word, or subject which is noted a higher rate than others in a long conversation is said to be a trending topic or a “hot topic”. Trends in Facebook also become popular either due to an outside event which prompts people to discuss a certain topic or due to users themselves adding to the conversation. A couple of examples of hot topics on Facebook include “the fastest way to earn money” and “books”. The former is likely to continue to gain popularity as more information is revealed via YouTube videos, blog posts, and news stories. The latter’s momentum is likely to ebb and flow as interest wanes and interest grows. Trending topics on Facebook appear less frequently as interest wanes.
There is another aspect to trending on Facebook that bears watching. Trending in Facebook and Twitter is influenced by how other users are trending. For example, if I were to look at the discussion of the recent Sony Hack, I would see many people discussing their feelings regarding the event, what it means for the industry, and what they think should be done next. Those discussions would include words like “security,” “eurility,” “vandalism,” and “doxxing.” These words, as well as others would show me the trends being discussed in real time as they occur on the internet.
I believe the best way to understand what’s happening in a trending topic is to keep an eye out for two very different hashtags: #wakeup and #townhall hashtag. For example, if I were to look at the trending topics for my local town hall, I would find mentions of “health care reform” along with “socialize.” Although the town hall hashtags do not have #burglarizing or #eurility in them, I am able to see the connections created by the words in the hashtags.
What I have found most interesting about trending is that while businesses may be involved in the trending topic to promote themselves or their product, the conversation itself can have real-world impact. Take, for example, the recent uprising in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood. Many Americans flooded the social media platform tweeting that they were trending Egypt, and many pictures were posted showing solidarity with the people of Egypt. The trending of a topic has indeed had an impact in the real world. But it also likely created a micro-blogging platform where opinions could easily be polarized and sensationalized.
When it comes to brands using trending as part of their strategy, one must realize that brands need to think about how their content is evolving over time. If brands want to engage consumers on an emotional level, they have to make sure that the content they are creating reflects that. Video content, live videos, and tweets all need to be more representative of the brand so that users feel like the brand has “behind” the content. I believe the trend of trending is good, but it is far from perfect.