Trending is a feature on social media platforms that highlights the topics being discussed by users in real-time. Trends can spring from any source, including news events, influencers and celebrities, or even the general public. Keeping up with trends can help businesses increase their visibility, engage with consumers in relevant conversations and potentially attract new customers. However, leveraging trends can also be risky if not approached with care. Trending is a real-time barometer of public interest, and it can reveal valuable insights into shifts in sentiment or emerging stories.

As the internet and social media platforms have evolved, so has the concept of trending. Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook have introduced specific ‘trending’ sections that highlight the most talked-about topics in real time. This has transformed journalism and media, allowing journalists to identify potential story ideas and rapidly share information with their audiences. It has also changed the way brands approach trending, as it allows them to be a part of relevant discussions and increase their exposure amongst consumers. However, as AdWeek points out, it’s important for brands to remain sensitive and ensure they’re participating in the conversation for the right reasons. Insensitive or inappropriate posts can quickly turn a trending topic into a PR nightmare.

The factors that determine whether a topic becomes a trend are diverse and complex. Often, it’s related to current events or news stories, but it can also be due to pop culture, memes, or even political activism. The most common cause of a trend is virility, which occurs when content gains popularity and engagement by being shared widely across social networks. Controversial topics can also generate significant engagement and become trends as people debate and discuss them.

Another factor is relevance, which is determined by the extent to which a topic is of interest at a particular moment. This can be subjective, as the interest in a certain topic may fluctuate over time, or it can be based on location, which is determined by the country and language of each user’s internet connection. Trending also requires that a certain number of searches be made for a particular topic in order to appear as a trend, and this can be difficult to quantify.

As a result, many trending topics are prone to manipulation by individuals and groups of users. Known as ‘trendjacking,’ this involves deliberately manipulating the trending algorithm to promote particular views or messages. For example, the use of fake accounts with names resembling those of popular figures can cause an individual or group to appear as a trending topic without actually having that level of popularity. This has led to changes in the Trending section on Twitter, where it is now more difficult for manipulation to occur. Other methods of trendjacking include coordinating with other users to promote a particular topic or message, and even the use of bots to create automated trends. These are not always effective, however, as they tend to only generate short-term spikes in popularity rather than sustained trends.