A trend is a general direction something seems to be taking at any given time. It can be as broad as the popularity of a particular fashion or entertainment style, as narrow as the temperature of a city’s weather, or as focused as the specific topics currently trending on social media. Trends can be fun, fabulous, or appalling, but they always seem to come and go. Understanding what causes trends and how they can help businesses is important for any social media marketer.

A ‘trending’ topic is a subject that appears prominently on the sidebar of Twitter or other social networks, indicating that it is popular amongst the majority of users at any given moment. In the case of Twitter, the platform displays trending topics on the For You, Discover and Trending tabs.

Trends are determined by an algorithm that looks for sharp spikes in volume, as opposed to gradual growth over a longer period of time. A quick rise in popularity will cause a hashtag to start trending, which means it is getting significant attention on the site, as Twitter’s data scientist Gilad Lotan explains in this Washington Post article.

Twitter’s algorithms take a variety of factors into account when deciding what to show in the trends section, including geographical location and who is sharing a certain topic. As a result, a trend may appear in the trending list with a different name in a specific region than it would in another. A hashtag may also be removed from the list if the discussion surrounding it becomes too controversial, or if an authority figure expresses disapproval of its use.

Businesses can benefit from being associated with a trending topic by increasing the visibility of their social media accounts, as well as by bringing awareness to a particular issue or event. They should be careful not to abuse the system, however, as doing so could damage their reputation and lead to a loss of credibility with users. It is also important to ensure that the content they share relates in some way to the topic of the trend.

Trending is a relatively new term in the English language, having been added to the Oxford English Dictionary only in 2011, but it has already taken on a life of its own. It’s been applied to everything from the popularity of a new style of clothing to political activism, and the definition is constantly evolving to match up with current events. The word is a great example of how our vocabulary adapts to changes in culture, technology and society, and opinions differ on whether ‘trending’ is even a real word. Regardless, it has become a critical part of the modern world, just as selfie, twerking and bromance have. Whether it’s a passing fashion or an idea with enduring relevance, the world is always changing, and understanding what’s trending can help you stay ahead of the curve in any industry.