Finding and responding to trends on social media
There are many ways to keep track of trending topics on social media. Here’s why you should and how to go about it.
With the technology of smartphones and the speed of social media in the palms of our hands, we’re all capable of taking on the role of journalist from time to time. Whether we’re able to reach a sizable audience with our messages or not, we’ll always be faster than television crews – let alone print journalists – when we’re in the right place at the right time. Major stories like the plane crash in the Hudson river and the massive earthquake in China were long being discussed on Twitter before more traditional media started reporting on them.
For PR professionals, it is crucial to keep a close eye on trending topics on social media. Besides the obvious objective of newsgathering, trend watching on social media also serves to gain insights into the lives of your target audience. Knowledge of customer needs and preferences can be of great strategic value. Not only does it enable your organisation to respond through the development of products and services, but by picking up on trends and participating in ongoing discussions, you’re constantly interacting with your target audience.
By picking up on trends and participating in ongoing discussions, you’re constantly interacting with your target audience.
Tips for trends on social media
Luckily, finding trends on social media is fairly easy. Let’s look at some of the major platforms and put together some tips for each of them:
- Twitter: Once logged in, Twitter’s homepage shows a frame on the left which is aptly called Trends. By default, you’ll be presented with the so-called tailored trends, which are based on your location and the Twitter accounts you follow. Should you want to eliminate this second variable and only see trends based on location, click Change and enter the desired location. With Twitter Moments, collections of related tweets can be curated into a ‘Moment’ to create a storyline, which you can then follow to make sense of a specific trend. Another option is to create lists of accounts you know to always be the first to report on current developments.
- Facebook: A year ago, Facebook introduced Signal, an application for journalists to find and follow trends on Facebook and Instagram. You can also like and follow Facebook Pages which are most relevant to your field, but be careful of confirmation bias. The Wall Street Journal’s Blue Feed, Red Feed for example shows just how biased your news intake can become if you exclusively follow media on one specific side of the political spectrum.
- Google: The king of search has about 40.000 queries per second at its disposal, making Google Trends a reliable source for popular subjects, sorted by category and country. Google Trends is also the go-to place for trending videos on YouTube.
- Instagram and Pinterest: The image-oriented media require a little more proactive work on your part. Pinterest offers an overview of popular pins, but when looking for current trends you’re better off using Twitter and Google. Once you’re following a specific trend, you can keep track of relevant hashtags on Instagram and boards on Pinterest. The latter also offers functionality to search for similar images or even objects.
- Tools: Do you lack time and/or motivation to keep going through all of these channels, but do have a fear of missing out? Naturally, there are plenty of tools designed to follow and analyse trends on social media for you. Your options will always depend on budget and specific needs. Some well-known examples are BuzzSumo, Brandwatch and Social Mention.
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