Set some trends

If you believe What the trend?, tracking Twitter’s trends is useful.  So useful that they charge $450 per month to analyse the trends for you!  Now, I’m not suggesting that any of you engage their services, however, the fact that this service is one of the many available to track the trends on twitter and other social networking sites indicates there is something else going on here, and something that might be worth the VCS having a look at.

Twitter trending (listing the topics that are receiving the most posts on Twitter) offers an insight into the mind of the average Twitter user.  And it’s an interesting mind – a mixture of social action, commentary and frivolity (when I looked at the UK trending topics earlier today they included: the number plate and name of a murder suspect in Cumbria; people’s rants on things they don’t like; comments on the Gaza flotilla; and a printer made from Lego).  But what use is it to you and your organisation?

Well, there’s a few things trending can tell you:

  • It shows you what people are interested in at that moment
  • It shows you what people are willing to take the time to comment on
  • Looking at the trending statistics (for example by looking at trendclouds or trendingtopics) allows you to see how long each link has trended for, giving an indication on the endurance of certain topics
  • It enables you to get your message seen by the most amount of people by posting it on a trending topic

Even the seemingly frivolous trends are worth a look at (you know, the #ifhiphopwashighschool type tweets). I spent 15 minutes this morning reading rants about things people don’t appreciate, and the other day I was enthralled by #middleclassnightmares.  And then I sent the links to some friends, who also got addicted.  Now, this may tell you more about the easily distractible nature of my circle of friends, but it also throws up a point worth remembering; people are more likely to get involved in something, including posting online, if it is fun.  A seemingly obvious point, but it often gets forgotten when people seek to improve their online community or network.  Are reading and posting on silly trends fun?  Yes.  Useful?  At first glance, it may seem not.  But as some of the VCS have noticed, things that may at first glance seem trivial can reap rewards – think of the teletubbies running the London marathon, or people betting on virtual giant snail races

So watch the trends, post some comments, and you never know; if you try hard enough, before too long, you could be setting the trends.  After all, the VCS always has. 

Last updated at 14:57 Wed 02/Jun/10.
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Trends are not just for twitter. I find Google Insights for Search fascinating: can drill down and find the most popular search terms by category, and interestingly for future watchers there is a section which shows the 'breakout' fastest rising search terms.

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