From the silly (#FiveWordsToRuinADate) to the serious (international news headlines), trends are a valuable source of information about what people are discussing on social media and what they’re searching for. Knowing about trending can help you to connect with your target audience in an engaging and relevant way. It can also give you an edge over your competitors, provided that you act quickly and with the right strategy.

The term “trending” can refer to an event, topic, hashtag, photo, video, catch-phrase, or app that is rapidly rising in popularity on social media. While the trending feature is mostly associated with Twitter, Google+ and YouTube all have similar tools that list popular topics and can help you identify potential opportunities.

When it works well, the trends feature acts as a kind of online real-time event that prompts people to share their thoughts about a certain subject. It can bring attention to a forgotten cause, or encourage discussion of something that has gone viral. It can even be used by fans of a team or celebrity to coordinate their efforts to support their favorite group.

Unfortunately, it can also be used as a tool for manipulation or for coordinating efforts to attack people who don’t share a particular perspective. This has been a persistent problem for the trending feature, and despite several attempts by Twitter to address it, the problems continue to arise.

In recent years, there have been a number of companies that have tried to improve the way that they monitor and use trending data. Some, like Buzzsumo, focus on identifying viral content that can be used to boost engagement for a business or brand. Others, like TikTok, focus on using search volume to determine what videos and topics are currently popular.

One of the more controversial tools for identifying trends is SparkToro, which claims to be the “front page of the web marketing world.” Its Trending tool provides an organized list of the most shared tweets by active marketers, and it allows anyone to connect with the tool (you’ll see an option to do so when you arrive on the site).

While this tool can provide useful insights into what people are talking about, it can also be misleading. The way that SparkToro Trending is set up, it will probably pull in a lot of irrelevant trends, such as movies, TV shows, or songs that have nothing to do with your business. It may be tempting to add unrelated keywords and hashtags in an attempt to boost visibility, but this can draw the ire of the website and, in extreme cases, lead to account suspension.

For example, when the song “Shit” by Drake was in the top 10 trends, it was largely because of its association with the rapper’s feud with Cardi B. Similarly, when the topic “Ringmaster” was trending, it was primarily because of the controversy surrounding the new season of WWE’s reality series. This type of abuse can be incredibly damaging to the credibility and reputation of a company, as it can lead to confusion and skepticism about what they’re actually trying to accomplish.