Getting trending is a huge boost for any social media user. It can help a hashtag, topic, image or video go viral and be seen by millions of people at the same time. It can also be used to promote a product, event or business.
Trending is a feature on Twitter that compiles conversations taking place right now into curated collections. Twitter users can then see a list of trends for their location and selected interests. Facebook, Google and YouTube have similar features that show the most talked about topics.
As of 2022, Twitter has changed how Trends works. The site still aims to capture the public conversation, but now trends are more like online events and often appear with some context (for example, when a trend about a popular ice cream treat that was discontinued is spotted as trending, other Twitter users will tweet their memories of the snack). Twitter also limits how many times a single trend can be shown per day.
Twitter’s algorithms rely on patterns of search data and a number of other signals to determine which topics appear in trending lists. They look at how quickly a hashtag gains interest, weighing the volume of searches against how long it took to build up that momentum.
This means that even a small group can hijack trends to spread messages that are inflammatory, offensive or unfounded. The process has been documented by academics and journalists who have followed trends as they have developed. A few people have managed to make a single hashtag or topic trend worldwide simply by coordinating swells of accounts talking about it simultaneously. In one instance, a small group of organizers for the ruling party in India got hundreds of topics to trend by leveraging a few big accounts to amplify posts with the same message.
As a result, the trending section of Twitter is often a dangerous place to be. The platform has attempted to combat the problem by introducing features such as Moments that allow people to compile the latest conversations into curated collections. It has also manually overridden particularly objectionable trends and has started to attach a representative tweet for some topics in order to provide context.
While these attempts to make the trending list more trustworthy are admirable, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a completely objective or impartial way to highlight what’s most popular. It’s impossible to know exactly how many of the trends you see are a result of algorithms, and it’s easy to find examples of bias or abuse in the trending list.
YouTube also uses an algorithm to decide what appears in the trending list. It considers metrics such as the number of views a video is getting, where those views are coming from and how old the video is. For this reason, it’s best to release videos regularly and make sure they align with current trends. If you do, your content will have the best chance of appearing in the trending tab.