A trend is a word, hashtag or topic that suddenly gains popularity on a social media site such as Twitter. This sudden popularity is generally caused by an event that spurs people to talk about the subject, such as a celebrity death or the latest political gaffe. If a trend becomes popular enough, it appears on the right side of Twitter’s home page as a “Trending” section, where millions of users see it. Getting into the Trending list can be an important goal for some companies, and many hire consultants to help them get there.

The trends that appear on Twitter are generated by the social network’s algorithm, which tries to find the most popular topics being discussed at a given time. It takes into account things like how long the topic has been trending, whether it’s a newer topic or one that’s been around for a while and how much of a spike in activity there has been recently.

Twitter’s algorithm favors quick growth in trending topics, which may explain why some trendy topics don’t last as long as others. It also looks for a wide range of tweets on a topic to make sure it’s not just a few individuals talking about the same thing. Twitter also takes into account the location of the tweets and the types of accounts posting about a topic.

If a certain type of content is more likely to go viral, such as video clips, it will show up in the Trending section more often. Similarly, more engaging and entertaining content tends to be more popular than dull or boring posts. Trends can also reflect specific events or even specific people, such as a celebrity’s new album release or a popular TV show. Trends can even be distilled by companies such as Pantone, which can declare a color of the year based on what it’s seeing in terms of consumer demand.

Businesses can get involved in trending discussions to gain visibility among consumers, but they must be careful not to abuse this feature. Posting unrelated content or using trends without context can attract ire from the social media site and, in extreme cases, can lead to the company’s account being suspended.

When participating in a trending discussion, brands should use unique hashtags that are not being used by anyone else and avoid adding them to existing hashtags. In addition, the company should provide clear directions on how they would like the conversation to evolve so that participants know what is expected of them. Lastly, the company should try to keep any branding to a minimum, as this can disrupt the conversation and change the tone from positive to insensitive. Posting about tragedies, such as the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, requires a great deal of care as well, as it can easily slip into an insensitive discussion that can have negative effects on the public.