A trend is a general direction that something is changing, developing or veering toward. The term is also used for a fashion or fad, such as bike shorts that were all the rage in the 1990s. In social media terms, a trend is a topic that is popular enough to appear on the ‘trending topics’ section of Twitter, YouTube or another platform. Getting a hashtag or subject to trend can be a huge boost to the profile of a brand, celebrity or event.

The trending feature was first introduced to Twitter by Chris Messina as a way of organising conversations using the site’s eponymous hashtags (words or phrases preceded by a ‘#’ symbol). Since then it has spread to other platforms, and many news and entertainment websites now include a trending topics section of their sites.

Twitter uses algorithms to determine what makes the ‘trending’ list, favouring spikes over gradual growth. Typically, trends need to have a large number of people discussing them and they should have a wide geographic spread. This can be difficult to achieve, especially for long-tail keywords or localised terms.

However, it is possible to get a hashtag or subject to trend in the short-term, and this can help with local marketing and generating brand awareness. This can be done by encouraging a group of people to all tweet about the same thing at the same time, such as a conference or networking event. This can be effective, but it’s important to remember that a trending topic will likely be short-lived and the hashtag may disappear from the list once the event is over.

YouTube’s trending videos are also influenced by user activity, including how often videos are watched and shared. As well as this, it takes into account the location of the viewer and how old a video is when determining if it will appear on the trending list. This is why it’s important to be careful with the content you choose for your trending videos – the last thing you want is for a video that you’ve worked so hard on to appear alongside profanity or explicit material.

It’s worth noting that YouTube’s Trending section isn’t personalized for individual users. As a result, it’s not the best tool for bloggers to use if they want to ensure their content is seen by the right audience.

Despite this, we’ve worked with clients that have got their hashtags to trend, even when there aren’t very many users talking about it. The key is having a captive audience and providing them with a clear call to action to tweet about your topic. Using an entirely unique hashtag is also beneficial, as it will be quicker to gain momentum than an existing one with a build up of history and search results. It’s also worth noting that the trending list can change on a regular basis, so it’s important to keep an eye on the latest developments and check back regularly.