Trending is a term used to describe popular topics, hashtags, and keywords that are currently gaining momentum on a social media platform like Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok. Trending topics are spotted by algorithms that analyze engagement and activity on the platform in order to determine what is generating a lot of attention at a given moment. Popular trends are then highlighted by the platform and can be seen on the homepage or in the Explore area, i.e. TikTok’s FYP.

The most common ways to find a trending topic are by browsing a platform’s homepage or by visiting the Explore or Trending page, where popular trends are displayed in a list form with a trending icon to indicate that they’re hot right now. Many platforms tailor the trends that appear to an individual user based on their location, search history, and who they follow and like. This personalization can make or break a trending topic, as it can affect the reach and longevity of the topic in a real-time context.

When a hashtag or topic becomes trending, it means that thousands, and sometimes millions of people are tweeting about it. The algorithm that identifies trends looks at various factors to determine what is being discussed and if it warrants the trending label, including the number of people tweeting about it, how recent the tweets are, how many retweets a topic has, and how long it’s been trending for. A trending topic isn’t necessarily a good thing, though. Trends can be hijacked by individuals, organizations, or brands seeking to promote themselves. A company’s insensitive tweet about a tragedy can quickly become a trending topic for all the wrong reasons.

Getting a hashtag to trend on Twitter can be difficult, but there are certain tactics that can help a brand or campaign gain traction and visibility on the platform. The first step is to create a unique hashtag for your campaign. The use of a unique hashtag claims every tweet that contains that tag as your own, and this greatly increases the likelihood that your campaign will be successful. Providing a clear call to action is also crucial. It helps to give directions, such as what to post and when, in order to encourage participants to spread the word.

YouTube’s Trending section was the target of criticism this week after a video alleging that a Parkland shooting victim was a crisis actor made its way to the top of the list. The company addressed the issue, stating that it was careful about what videos are shown on the page and promised to take more measures to prevent offensive content from appearing in the list.

As a result, it’s important for marketers to be mindful of what they’re using as hashtags and keywords in their campaigns. The use of overused tags will reduce their chances of trending, and the use of words that are too general or widely-known may result in their being deemed irrelevant.