A trend is the general direction something is changing or developing. In business, a company may use trending to see what products are popular with customers or what types of articles customers want to read. In social media, trending can refer to topics or hashtags that are currently popular and generating a lot of activity.

Using the tool Google Trends, businesses can see what topics are popular online and what people are searching for. These trends can then be used to inform marketing strategies and determine which keywords to target in search engine optimization campaigns. Trending also allows marketers to stay abreast of what’s happening in the news and make informed decisions about what kind of content their audience wants to consume.

The term “trending” originated on Twitter thanks to the popularity of hashtags (words or phrases preceded by a # symbol that mark a topic for discussion in tweets) and has since spread to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms. Trends are determined by algorithms created by each platform to show users what topics are generating the most buzz on their sites.

Some platforms allow their users to change their trending preferences so that they are tailored to the user’s specific location, previous likes or searches and whom they follow. Twitter, for instance, has a trending section that shows topics that are most popular in the city where the user is located. The user can also change the trending topics to the United States to monitor conversations nationwide.

While it can be useful for a business to stay abreast of what people are talking about, it’s important to approach trends with care. Inappropriate postings, especially during tragedies, can be perceived as insensitive and can damage a brand’s image. Likewise, if a business tries to capitalize on a trending topic by posting irrelevant information or hashtags it can draw ire from the site’s users and, in extreme cases, even result in account suspension.

Businesses can get in on the action by monitoring their own trends as well as the trends of competitors and industry leaders. Trends can be a good source of new ideas for blog posts or social media content, as well as new product lines and promotions. For example, if your online store sells women’s blouses and you notice that searches for that item are increasing, this could be a great time to stock up on inventory.

However, it’s also important for a business to understand that it can be easy to misuse or abuse trends. For example, a trend about cupcakes might seem innocent enough but if your business is selling vegan cupcakes, this could be seen as insensitive to diehard fans of other bakery shops. To avoid this, it’s best to have a clear plan in place before jumping into a trending conversation. In addition to being careful about what a business posts on its own accounts, it’s also important to be aware of how other companies are approaching the trending conversation in order to learn from their successes and mistakes.