The word trending is often associated with the popular social media platform Twitter, but Facebook and YouTube also use the term to describe the topics that are hot among users at a given moment. Trending can include anything from an event, topic, photo, hashtag, catch-phrase or App that people are talking about using social media. Trending can be a useful tool for businesses looking to boost awareness, engagement and sales.

Trends are a list of subjects that are being discussed across social media platforms in real time and are displayed as such on the left-hand sidebar of Twitter pages, within the Explore tab on Facebook or on YouTube’s trending videos page. They are based on the frequency of keywords or terms being searched by users, which is analyzed and grouped into topics by social platforms.

Each platform has its own way of sorting through what’s trending, with Twitter showing trends personalized based on Pages a user follows, their location and what is being talked about on the site. On YouTube, trends are separated into categories that show a variety of public and in-network posts about the subject. Users can click on a category and see more in-depth posts.

Some trends are predictable, such as the release of new movies or songs from popular artists, while others come and go based on breaking news, political events and other current affairs. Twitter trends can be manipulated and are often used to create memes. Despite the controversy over how to best use Twitter trends, the company maintains that it’s meant to provide an accurate snapshot of what people are talking about right now on the site.

Google’s Trends feature shows a graph of search interest over time and by region for particular words or phrases. It can be used to determine the popularity of a particular product or service, and to identify potential competitors. The tool also allows marketers to track the performance of specific ads, indicating which are performing well and which are underperforming.

A business that wants to leverage a trending topic can start by creating an appropriate hashtag, or “trending topic.” This should be unique and short, and it’s often a good idea to make it memorable, for example, by including a pun or emoji. The hashtag can then be included in a post on a brand’s social media accounts or website, and it may also be featured in a paid ad.

In some cases, a business can also leverage trends by directly asking its audience to participate. But a brand should be careful not to abuse trending topics, as posting irrelevant content can draw ire from viewers and could result in the account being suspended by the site. In extreme cases, Twitter has shut down accounts for abusing its trending tools. The same applies to Facebook, which has rules in place to prevent brands from posting trending topics that don’t relate to their product or services. This can be a difficult balance to strike, but it can help businesses get the most visibility for their content and gain followers.