Staying on top of trends is a great way for companies to engage with their audience, participate in conversations online and prepare relevant marketing content. But it can also be misleading to chase trends just for the sake of it. A trend that’s waning by the time you jump on board will only serve to make your company look out of touch and outdated. To avoid falling into this trap, you need to understand the dynamics of trending and how it works on different social media platforms.

Trends are a measure of popular interest at a given moment on a social network. They’re determined by analyzing the frequency of specific keywords or topics that appear in posts, videos, and chats. When these words or phrases show a significant spike in popularity, they’re labeled as “trending.”

The trends you see on your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts are all based on data pulled from the platform’s user base. This information includes everything from the most searched for restaurants in your area to the hashtags people are using to talk about events like a school shooting. Google aggregates this data into a feature called Google Trends, which shows the most popular searches across a range of regions and categories.

In a world where we are constantly looking for the next interesting tit-bit to titillate our senses, it’s easy to understand how a topic could become a trend. All it takes is for someone to post in one of the many social media networks that people use about something they’ve seen or heard and for that person’s friends to share the information. From there, the tit-bit can spread quickly with virality.

As for how trends are measured and determined, that’s a bit more complicated. Some social media platforms allow you to choose your location to get tailored trending topics, but others don’t. For example, you won’t see trending topics for sports teams or TV shows on YouTube unless you select your country.

The process of determining which videos will appear on the Trending section of YouTube is similar to the algorithm used for search results, but with some important differences. Since the Trending tab reflects what’s happening in real-time, it prioritizes videos that are fresh and watch-worthy. The more views a video has, the higher it ranks. YouTube also takes into account the number of times a video is viewed by users in different locations. That’s why it’s best to upload your content in multiple formats and target as many different countries as possible.