Trending is when a topic, hashtag, or keyword becomes popular and gains more visibility and engagement on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. Trending is determined by algorithms that analyze activity to identify what is most talked about at a given time. These algorithms can be influenced by current events, news stories, viral content, holidays, popular culture, or even online campaigns and challenges. Trending topics can reflect local interests or global interest.

As a marketing tool, trends can be extremely useful for brands and marketers. They can help identify the most popular topics that are being discussed, and they can also give brands a chance to jump in on the conversation and become visible to new audiences. However, it is important for brands to use trending with sensitivity and ensure that they are using it appropriately in order to avoid coming across as inauthentic or contrived.

While trends can be used to drive brand awareness and generate more engagement, it is important to understand that the list of trends on any platform is curated and not always a reflection of what is actually being talked about. This is because different algorithms can influence the list of trends, and there are certain criteria that must be met in order to get a topic to trend.

Twitter, for example, only allows a certain number of users to see the same set of trends. In addition, a trending topic has to meet a threshold of popularity in order to be featured on the page. This means that a trend can be manipulated in various ways, which has led to controversy over the accuracy of the list.

YouTube is a bit more transparent about what goes into its Trending section, but it still relies on algorithms to determine which videos appear in the list. Many creators complain that the algorithm often favors mainstream channels over independent ones, as well as videos that are edgy or controversial. YouTube has taken steps to address these concerns, but it is difficult to know exactly how the system works.

Another factor in determining what is trending is how quickly a topic can grow in popularity. As one data scientist, Gilad Lotan, has explained, Twitter’s trending algorithm favors sharp spikes over gradual growth, and this can make a difference between whether a hashtag trendes or not. As a result, even a very popular hashtag can miss out on the spotlight if it doesn’t reach a certain threshold in a short period of time. This may explain why #FreddieGray did not trend despite the huge amount of traffic that the hashtag generated. This same phenomenon could also prevent a trend from occurring in the first place, as was the case with the trend around the San Bernardino shootings and the incorrect spelling of the city’s name (#SanBernardino).